Q1 2019 Books in Review

Quite a good little mix of books this time around. Some were enjoyable, some to explore a different genre or author, and some that deeply moved me. I thought I’d provide the skimmable version of the books I read first and then my reviews.

Books in no particular order

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
  • The War I Finally Won
  • And the Mountains Echoed
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Hidden Figures
  • Frontier Grit
  • Little Men
  • March
  • The Little Stranger
  • Hattie Big Sky
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Historical Non-Fiction

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race

By: Margot Lee Shetterly

Audiobook: Excellent.

I went and saw this movie when it came out a couple of years ago and was so inspired by it. As often happens with incredible stories, the question is, “Why have I not heard about this before???” I am so glad that I know about it now and…the book is better. The movie had to take some creative liberties on timeline and associations. So the book covers a much longer period of time and covers more people who made history. This gives incredible insights into the work that the “computers” did with NASA and how they got there. The book also provides insight into pre-civil rights working conditions for black women (specifically) as well as moves through the civil rights era and builds on some of the issues of the Cold War. It covers some of the challenges of racism and sexism. It was helpful for me to read about these women and understand their situation and think about what I am doing to help make this world better. The story also focuses on the incredible genius of Katherine Johnson, who calculated the rocket trajectories of the Mercury and Apollo missions. She. Is. Incredible. Definitely worth a read or a listen.

Frontier Grit

By: Marianne Monson

Audiobook: Excellent

A couple of years ago, some friends gave me this book, but I hadn’t picked it up (for shame, really). But when I needed an audiobook and saw this one, I chose it. Excellent choice. This highlights twelve incredible women who were settlers and frontier women in the West in the 1800s. They hailed from several different countries, cultures, and races, and each had a profound impact on their communities.

I was so touched by the determination of these women to make a difference in their world. This was another book that spoke to me and reminded me that there is a lot of good that is needed in this world, and we need to be the ones who do it.

Also this, from Abigail Scott Duniway, an Oregon Trail Suffragette. “The young college women of today–free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price.”

Historical fiction/novels

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

By: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Audiobook: Excellent

I can’t believe this was my first time reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This book moved my in so many ways. This is an anti-slavery novel written before the Civil War and many say laid the groundwork for the Civil War. Through the story of Uncle Tom, this book shows the terrible atrocities of slavery and the deep longing for freedom. I don’t know how to express all that I feel about this book. I am sickened when I read about slavery. This book also highlights the desperate hope and faith of Tom as well as his family members. I was touched by the portrayal of Christian strength for those to whom it must have seemed God had abandoned.

I researched a bit into Harriet Beecher Stowe and found she took many of the stories from real-life experiences. I also was profoundly impacted by something she wrote, prior to writing this book, as she discovered the need to do something about the problem of slavery.
“I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”[Hedrick, Joan D. 1994]

I think I need to take a note from her book.

March

By: Geraldine Brooks

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. I don’t often read fan fiction but this one intrigued me. This novel covers the story of the father of the March family–his upbringing, his life, his abolitionist efforts, and his efforts in the Civil War. Just as Little Women is semi-autobiographical, this book takes the story of the March father mostly from the journals and writings of Louisa’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott.

I didn’t totally love the writing style of the author, but I did like learning about different perspectives and happenings in the Civil War era, as well as the efforts of abolitionists. Having visited many Civil War historical sights this past November (see main picture at Harper’s Ferry), it was helpful to build more context. This book also touches on the atrocities of slavery and the difficulties brought on by the Civil War.

Hattie Big Sky

By: Kirby Larson

This was a fun read. It is considered a children’s historical novel, set during World War I. Hattie is an orphan (as they often are) who is given the chance to get a claim on land in Montana. This follows her adventures of settling the land as well as the complexities of the war on relations with locals who have German roots who are also settling the land.

Novels

The War I Finally Won

By: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Audiobook: Great

I read the first book a bit ago (The War that Saved My Life) and didn’t realize there was a second! I really love the reader on the audiobook. This follows young children in World War II era in England. To not give away the first book, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t love love everything about these books–well, they are for a younger audience, so maybe they just felt too simplistic–but I still liked them.

And the Mountains Echoed

By: Khaled Hosseini

I continued my look into the Afghani culture with this next book. Hosseini is an interesting author. This particular book jumps all over the place to different time frames and people and is sometimes a tiny bit hard to follow. But that kind of makes it brilliant.

This book follows the story of a poor child who is sold to a wealthy couple so the poor family can provide for their other children. It is a book of heartache, lies, and discovery. Sad and poignant.

Little Men

By: Louisa May Alcott

You already know I love Little Women. I really just love who Louisa was as a person. I am intrigued by this book because it takes a different flavor of writing. There is no particular plot; it’s more of an amalgamation of stories. I’ve read it before, and there isn’t anything in particular that stands out, other than it portrays goodness in family life. It follows Jo Bhaer as she begins a school for young boys. It’s a nice little read.

The Little Stranger

By: Sarah Waters

Audiobook: Great

I’m not quite sure who recommended this to me, but I didn’t look into it at all beforehand. I mean, I still quite enjoyed it. But it’s SCARY. The Little Stranger refers to some supposed being in a house that is haunted. But the story is well-done. Dr. Faraday encounters a home his parents had worked in during his childhood and befriends the residents he knew many years before. Then, strange things begin happening that raise serious questions into what is hidden in the old estate. Spooky. Don’t listen to it at night. When you’re alone. I would know.

Books recommended to me by guys who at one point in time I went on a date with

I thought this would be a fun category. 🙂

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By: Neil Gaiman

Audiobook: Brilliant

This is considered fantasy. I believe. A man returns to his hometown after being away for many years, and suddenly strange events from his past are brought to his memory. As a child, he met a girl named Lettie Hempstock, who claimed that the pond in her yard was an ocean. His friendship with Lettie launches him into a world of uncertainty, magic, and even terror sometimes as a being from another world tries to ruin his life. An intriguing read.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By: Aimee Bender

This is considered magical realism, as it was explained to me. The person who recommended it said that I shouldn’t read anything about the synopsis or summary or ANYTHING before I read it. So if you read it, I think I’ll pass along the same advice and won’t say much here. It was a WEIRD book. Not a top choice, but an interesting dive into a different genre.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

By: Douglas Adams

Audiobook: Excellent

I needed a light book in the mix of all this. The movies have long been a family favorite. I mean, we had a hamster named Trillian after all. That’s how much we love it. This book is so delightfully weird. The writing is brilliant and just…fun. I think it’s classified as sci-fi comedy. Arthur Dent is about to have his house bulldozed when he discovers his friend Ford Prefect is actually an alien and that the world itself is about to be torn down for a space highway, and then it is. He and Ford escape and meet up with some improbable characters.

And that’s it. So long and thanks for all the fish.

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