Q2 2018 Books in Review

“All stories told have been told before. We tell them to ourselves, as did all men who ever were. And all men who ever will be. The only things new are the names.” 

“Words are where most change begins.” 

―Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance

This has been a good few months of reading. Enjoy the recommendations!

Novels

Year of Wonders

By: Geraldine Brooks

This is a novel about the plague that takes place in 1665. It is told from the point of view of Anna Frith, a widowed young mother of two. As the plague ravages her town, the townspeople decide to quarantine themselves to prevent further outbreak. It’s an interesting look at how the plague could have/did possibly (?) affect people’s lives, family structure, sense of community, and faith. I enjoyed the look into this lifestyle and community in this era. A fairly quick read, but I wasn’t as enamored with it as many others seemed to be, based on its popularity and awards.

Fantasy 

The Way of Kings

By: Brandon Sanderson

[Audiobook: Excellent readers!]

“And so, does the destination matter? Or is it the path we take? I declare that no accomplishment has substance nearly as great as the road used to achieve it. We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.”

This book is filled with awesome quotes like this one. I ventured into Brandon Sanderson a few years ago with Elantris, but I hadn’t been back since, even though I received numerous recommendations of books to read (Mistborn will be next, so don’t freak out o ye Sanderson fans). After reading an article somewhere (that of course I can’t find again) that Oathbringer (the third book in the series) was the most-pre-requested audiobook and fastest listened-to (or something like that), I had to give it a try. And now I’m stuck in a 10-book monumental, world-building series of The Stormlight Archive.

I can’t even summarize this book. It’s an 1000 page book about high princes waging a war on shattered plains against creatures called the Parshendi. It’s about people discovering powers within themselves. It’s about redemption and learning and people changing and traitors and scholars and voyages and fighting and shardblades. I would highly recommend this series.

Words of Radiance

By: Brandon Sanderson

[Audiobook: This deserves its own little shout out. On accident, I checked out the Graphic Audio presentation of this book, which I didn’t know was any different from an audiobook. Oh, it is. And it’s amazing. Graphic Audio’s tagline is “a movie in your mind.” Each person is given a different voice actor. All the “he said” “she said” are eliminated and it plays out more like a play. The narrator still retains a part. This is a long, complex book with MANY characters and side stories. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with what was going on, but the voices and accents were different enough to track. Plus, there is a soundtrack to the entire book! It was insane, intense, and awesome. Quite gripping, literally. I listen while I drive and often found myself hanging on way too tightly to the steering wheel…I digress. I’d recommend a try at a graphic audio book, if you get a chance. I read that it is not really an abridgement, just an adaptation when presented this way.]

This epic tale continues The Stormlight Archive. The Parshendi are supposed voidbringers, a terror of past ages. Is there a way to stop them? Find out!

Ha. Again, I can’t even summarize another 1000 pages and if you haven’t read the first one, I don’t want to give away anything. So just…read it.

Memoirs

The Midwife’s Sister

By: Christine Lee

Remember how I read all the Call the Midwife books? Well, this book is written by that author’s sister. In the Call the Midwife series, the author, Jennifer Worth, focuses mainly on her experiences as a nurse in the East End of London. This book takes a look at the entire lifespan of Jennifer and her sister Christine, as told by Christine. The two had a blessed early childhood until their parents’ divorce introduced them to a life of neglect and hardship. The two sisters’ bond is close for a time and quite complex for the rest of the time. I like Jennifer’s style of writing more than Christine’s but I found it fascinating to think that this shared some of the life of the same person I came to love in the Call the Midwife books because Jennifer seems more distant and cold. It’s interesting how life shapes us, how our perspectives are so different, and how a life of such cruelty could create people who create such beauty in the world.

In the Midst of Life

By: Jennifer Worth

Any themes here? Yes, I’m fascinated by these women and their life. This memoir by Jennifer takes a different approach than her first series of Call the Midwife. In those, she examines birth. In this book, she examines death. I found this book to be extremely thought-provoking about end-of-life care and practices. We do so much to keep people alive at all costs. Jennifer explores the ins and outs of how those decisions are made by people or for people and the happiness and sorrow each decision makes. She also includes several medical essays at the end about things such as paramedic care and its purpose. This book raised a lot of questions in my mind about why we do what we do and how we do it. And when we should do it. It’s always good to expand our thinking on issues such as death, which we will all experience.

Medical Anthropology/Biography/NonFiction

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

By: Anne Fadiman

I can’t exactly pin a genre on this one, so I put what the internet put (looks like they can’t decide on one either). After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and loving its journalistic exploration into Henrietta’s life, a friend in medical school recommended I take a look at The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. In this, a journalist looks at the life and journey of a young Hmong child, Lia Lee, who had a severe form of epilepsy.

The Lee family were refugees from Laos who ended up in California. The cultural clashes between the Hmong culture’s way of dealing with illness and the desired procedures and outcomes of the local professional medical community are intense. I believe this book is suggested reading in some medical professions because it explores the complexities of how to work with healthcare needs when there are significant cultural differences and barriers to communicating.

The author also takes us into the Hmong culture and why they came to the US as refugees, a part of history I had very little understanding of.

High recommendation for this book. It is thought-provoking, but it is also a tragedy and filled with many, many emotions. It’s quite complex, and a slow read at times, but worth the effort.

Self-Help

How to Be Single and Happy: Science-based Strategies for Keeping your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate

By: Jennifer L. Taitz

This book appeared as a recommended read either on my library app or Goodreads or Amazon or something. If Artificial Intelligence knows this much about me, shoot dang. It means I need to read it.

Now, my problem is that sometimes I’m actually perfectly happy being single. So I may need the book, “How to be happy, but just unhappy enough with being single that you don’t delete your dating app (again) and give up on dating altogether.” #jokes

But really, this book could aptly just be named: “How to be happy with the way relationships turn out in your life” because it explores the needs we have and how we can make relationships work better by working on our own selves and our own happiness. And how to not ruminate on past relationships (what? I don’t do that….) And how to be happy, of course. I consider myself a moderately happy person. Like…I fake it a lot, which isn’t really a bad thing. But I’m also actually happy a lot. And… I am unhappy, too, sometimes. And most of that isn’t connected to me being single. It’s just…dealing with life. This book is about dealing with life. What I liked the most was moving away from the lame dating advice I’ve read in other books like “you need to touch the guy’s elbow” and the lame stuff I hear from other people “don’t act too interested” and instead focuses on being the best me that I can be.

I don’t agree with all the philosophies in this book, but I agree with the sentiment and enjoyed the read. And now I’m single and happy. Just like that. Ha.

Religious

Through His Eyes: Rethinking What You Believe About Yourself

By: Virginia H. Pearce

I feel like most religious/self-help books I read are about rethinking what I believe about myself. Hmm.. Ah, yes, right. That’s what they’re all about. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It’s a short read with some great nuggets from Sister Pearce. She invites readers to examine every single thing we believe about ourselves and determine if it’s a truth or a Truth, so we can figure out the lies we believe about ourselves that harm our progress. She has several great exercises in this book to lead us on a path of discovery. Recommended.

Certain Women

By: Linda K. Burton

This book is basically a slight adaptation of the talk given by Sister Burton in the April 2017 general conference. I recently received a new opportunity to serve in my ward and was given this book by the Relief Society president as a reminder of the strength of women and the power of their testimonies. I especially love Sister Burton’s thoughts on Martha, because she bears one of the strongest testimonies I know in the scriptures. Certain women are believers.

“When life seems unfair, as it must have seemed to Martha at the death of her brother—when we experience the heartaches of loneliness, infertility, loss of loved ones, missing opportunities for marriage and family, broken homes, debilitating depression, physical or mental illness, stifling stress, anxiety, addiction, financial hardship, or a plethora of other possibilities—may we remember Martha and declare our similar certain witness: ‘But I know … [and] I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.'”

I want to be a certain woman.

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One Reply to “Q2 2018 Books in Review”

  1. Just put a couple of holds at the library thank to this list. Thanks!

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