Winter reading is the absolute best! The candles, fireplace and blankets keep me glued to the couch in reading heaven. I’ve been in a blissful reading groove since the start of the year and have had some wonderful books fall into my lap. I can’t wait to discuss them with you today, along with the community at Modern Mrs. Darcy. If you clicked over from there: welcome!
As usual, these aren’t book reviews exactly. More like random thoughts and feelings about the books I’ve read. I hope you find something that sparks your interest. I love this list so much.
Let’s dive in…
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
There’s a lot to unpack in this novel but I don’t want to give away too much info. Two narrators tell the story: a voice from the past and one from present day. One is trying to survive the horrible events of being kidnapped and tossed into an orphanage. The other is trying to uncover a mystery from her Grandmother’s past, while also trying to figure out her future. It’s an interesting, well-written story that sheds light on horrific events from the past and shows how people rise from the ashes when the unthinkable happens. One word of warning, a large part of the story deals with situations of child abuse. I nearly quit halfway through because of it but I’m glad I stuck it out and saw how the story redeems itself.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
I feel like the tagline for this book should be “Arthur Pepper: the other Ove” (as in A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman) since the story lines are so similar. I tried not to make the comparison while reading it but I couldn’t help it. They are both older gentlemen struggling to find their way after their wives pass away and both of them go on a journey of discovery, in a way, yet Arthur Pepper’s journey was much more intentional. Arthur Pepper finds a mysterious charm bracelet in his wife’s shoe, one he’s never seen before, and he decides he needs to know what these charms meant to his wife. Each charm leads to a new discovery of his wife’s life before him. It also leads to some much-needed discoveries about him. Arthur Pepper is a sweeter version and less cynical than Ove. His journey at times can be a bit unbelievable but it didn’t distract from the sweetness of this story.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This book took me on a journey that I wasn’t expecting. Eleanor lives on the fringes of society and is a bit awkward around others. Yet, there’s more to Eleanor than people can begin to imagine. An unexpected event brings her together with two other people and, as a result, they start knocking down some of her walls. It’s then that we begin to unravel her complicated and heartbreaking past. It was well done – difficult topics were handled gently, unexpected twists, etc. – especially for a debut novel. The characters, except one, were very likeable and you couldn’t help but to cheer for them. I suspect this book will be one of my favorites of the year.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Abrams guides a series of discussions between life-long friends and moral leaders, Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, about life, suffering, joy, forgiveness, etc. They offer advice but mostly they reflect on their own lives and experiences. This isn’t a lecture or a how-to book; it seems the main point of the book is to capture the inner thoughts of these inspiring men and present it in a way that will encourage others.
I was fascinated by their discussion and felt like I was eavesdropping on two friends having coffee. Let me tell you, these guys are surprisingly funny! They conquer difficult topics such as war, exile and forgiveness, but they also tease each other and act silly. At one point they stand up and dance. There were some profound thoughts that I’ll have to digest for a few days. I loved – and noted – how they handled their different opinions. Whenever they disagreed, they would reaffirm their relationship and love for one another, either through words or kind gestures. It made me wish more people could disagree as respectfully as they do and for this reason and other reasons I think it’s a timely book to read given the current political divide in our country.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Secret confession: Usually I just skip to the end of murder mysteries to find out who did it and then I ditch the book. Which is why I don’t read mysteries! But I didn’t this time because I actually started to care about the characters. The author did a great job developing the characters, especially for YA, and there’s a sweet love story that kept me hooked. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. It’s a page-turner and I read it very quickly. Perfect if you just need something fun to read.
That’s my update for now! You guys might not hear from me for a while because I just started Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, which clocks in at over 700 pages. I’m only a fraction into it, but I don’t regret it. I’m completely hooked. It reads like a soap opera, there’s so much drama! I’ll tell you more when I’m done.
What have you been reading lately?