Recent Reads / 04

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Recent Reads is a series for me to feature the last five books I’ve read (or experienced) along with my verdicts.

This year, I’ve based my reading goals on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge (listed here). I like that I was strategic about my book choices on the front end, and so far, so good. I’ve enjoyed almost every book on my list thus far (I’ve only abandoned one book — more on that in another post), and I’ve left enough room for the spontaneous reads that are starting to crowd my Kindle e-shelf.

Here’s my 2018 Reading Challenge list if you’d like to take a look.

Here we go…

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life
by Eleanor Roosevelt

I liked this life-manual-of-sorts from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. I read it slowly, catching a few paragraphs at a time over lunch or before bed. Ms. Roosevelt wrote this memoir in response to the most commonly asked questions she’d received through the years. One Amazon reviewer commented that this is a “little book with big ideas,” and I agree. Even contemporary readers will find Ms. Roosevelt’s advice relevant and engaging.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark

Reading Challenge Category:
A book you can read in a day

What an odd little book! I can’t remember where or when I first heard of it, but I snagged it during a Kindle sale for $2. Worth it.

In Scotland in the early 1930s, Miss Jean Brodie teaches a class of ten-year-old girls known as the “Brodie set.” “Educator” is a loose term for Miss Brodie. Perhaps “militant life coach” is a better way to put it, although she’s a life coach you’d never want your daughter to have. Miss Brodie is in her prime. Sexually. And it’s all she talks about with the girls through the years. She also dabbles in fascism. The plot is expertly concise and direct, and there’s even a bit of a mystery as to who sells out Miss Brodie to get her fired.

The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty

Reading Challenge Category:
A book by a favorite author

I read and loved Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies a few years ago, but I was pretty disappointed by Three Wishes (so much so that it ended up in my Bottom 5 for last year). It seemed unfair: I must have read her best and worst books back-to-back. I wanted to give Moriarty another shot, and I’m so glad I picked The Husband’s Secret, which I enjoyed as much as Big Little Lies.

This is Moriarty at her best: three women are betrayed by the secrets of men they love, and their situations are connected in unexpected ways. Moriarty must have been a psych major in college: she knows women and writes so well about their thoughts and motivations. I love how she fleshes out her characters and that she doesn’t write caricatures, stereotypes, or cliches. These women’s situations, while more dramatic than realistic, are completely relatable. And, most importantly, I’m back on the Moriarty fan bus.

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle

Reading Challenge Category:
Other books I planned to experience

I’d read and loved A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and I wanted to revisit the novel before the new movie version comes out this month. I picked this one up on audio, and I loved it just as much as I did when I was young.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the first sci-fi novels to feature a female protagonist, and L’Engle claims more than thirty publishers rejected her manuscript before it found a home.

I love that Meg Murry is a flawed protagonist — she’s anxious, impatient, and quick-tempered. In one crucial scene, Mrs. Whatsit gives each character a gift to help them in a perilous situation. Mrs. Watsit’s gift to Meg is her faults, to which Meg replies, “But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”. I just loved this part of the story. How often does a girl get to hear that her faults are a valuable part of her journey? Instead of telling her to not be angry, Meg hears that her anger is a sign that things aren’t the way they should be and she should channel that passion into righting the wrongs she’s experienced.

I’d love to finish L’Engle’s Time Quintet series, and I really hope the movie lives up to my expectations.

Young Jane Young
by Gabrielle Zevin

Reading Challenge Categories:
A book recommended by someone with great taste
A book by a favorite author
A book you can read in a day

I read and enjoyed Zevin’s The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry last year, so I was happy to read another of her books. My aunt recommended Young Jane Young on a recent visit, and I was able to snag it for $2 during a recent Kindle sale. Since I was in bed with the flu last weekend (DEATH), I was able to plow through this novel in a day. Young Jane Young is enjoyable and (much like Fikry) tackles emotionally weighty topics with a lighthearted tone.

Jane Young is a single mom and successful wedding planner in a small Maine town, harboring a secret past: as a twenty-something, Jane (whose real name is Aviva) had an affair with a handsome older congressman in Florida. After a minor car accident reveals the truth of their relationship, Aviva sheds twenty pounds, her recognizable name, and her Floridian roots in favor of a quieter life. I especially liked that the book is told in sections, each narrated by a woman who was affected by the affair (Jane/Aviva, her mom, her daughter, and the congressman’s wife). If you’re interested in reading the book, I recommend also reading Ron Charles’ insightful and accurate book review for The Washington Post.

Looking for more great book recommendations? Here’s volume 1volume 2, and volume 3.

3 Replies to “Recent Reads / 04”

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