Monday, April 1, 2013

reading recap: march.

Finished: Early March

I've been on a little bit of a John Green kick -- only Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson are left -- and based on the number of customers who come in seeking Looking for Alaska, I'd say I may have saved one of the best for last. The truth is, though, I find something to love about all of Green's books. His characters are incredibly real and flawed, and they take these fantastic journeys without the reader ever feeling like we're supposed to identify the profoundness in them. I particularly enjoyed Looking for Alaska for its Birmingham, Alabama, setting, and for protagonist Miles Halter's obsession with famous last words. I loved finding those quotes woven throughout the novel, and I both loved and hated traveling through Miles' world with him. I think Looking for Alaska is a beautiful, hard, sad, bittersweet book, and I can see why John Green's fans love him -- and his characters -- the way they do. (This one's probably perfect for fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower.)

Sort-of disclaimer: I can see why parents might be a little wary of Looking for Alaska, which is, technically  a YA book. It's got a lot of content I would have been completely unfamiliar with as a teen; as an adult, though, I know most teens aren't as naive as I was (am?), and good books can't be defined by their seemingly "questionable" content. In an ideal world, parents and teens would converse together about tough issues, and although I'm not a parent yet, I hope I'll let my teenager read the books he/she wants to read, and maybe read along with them, in hopes we can find the beautiful and hard things in them together.


Finished: Mid-March

Meh. I love books about friendships, especially those oh-so-difficult adult friendships that seem to be evading me lately, but Friendkeeping just didn't fit the bill. The author, Julie Klam, is funny enough, but the book almost read too conversational to me. (Meaning some of you may love it; it just wasn't my style.) Each chapter focused on a different aspect of friendship -- and, as my cousin pointed out, the chapters were cleverly titled -- but Klam mostly shared her own stories of friendship, unaccompanied by facts or statistics or even "tips" for those of us muddling through making friends of our own. The book is, more than anything, a light and fun tribute to Klam's friends. I suppose that would be okay if I were one of Klam's friends myself, but since I'm not, I felt like the book fell a little flat.


Finished: Late March

I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and the title of this book drew me in way back in January, when I traveled to Seaside, Florida, with some friends. Seaside is the home to one of my favorite bookstores, Sundog Books, and every time I visit, I try to buy a new book. Money was tight in January, but this book title kept grabbing my attention. Nobody at the store had read it yet, but I decided to take the leap, and I'm glad I did. Heather Lende reminds me, a little, of Anne Lamott -- Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs is filled with stories and anecdotes about faith, and I wound up underlining several of the truths sprinkled throughout the book. I love reading others' thoughts on faith, but I found Lende's stories intriguing, too, because of her obvious love for the land, specifically, her home in small-town Alaska. Alaska has never been on my list of places to visit, but Lende's book convinced me I needed to add it. This is one of those books I think may have gone unnoticed -- I didn't hear much about it when it came out -- but I think that's a shame. It's really lovely.


Book: The Light Between Oceans
Finished: Late March

The Light Between Oceans was our book club pick for March, and because my book-buying last month was nonexistent, I had to wait for a fellow reader to return this gem to the shelves. (And even then, my waiting grew so lengthy, I eventually just borrowed from a friend.) The book is popular, I think, for book clubs in our area -- maybe book clubs in general -- and I can see why. It's a fictional story, but it brings up all kinds of moral and cultural dilemmas. The story centers on Tom and Isabel, a young couple living out on Janus Rock, a secluded island off the coast of Australia. Tom serves as a lighthouse keeper, and the couple's life seems simple pleasant enough. A few painful miscarriages, though, and the grieving couple is almost unrecognizable. When a crying baby washes ashore, Tom and Isabel must decide her fate. The story is compelling -- definitely a page-turner -- but I can't decide if I found the characters more infuriating or realistic. Multiple times throughout the novel, I found myself putting the book down in frustration. I had friends who struggled to get past the author's lengthy descriptions of lighthouse life; I, in turn, struggled with Isabel's character, her decisions and her emotions. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel, and although it probably wasn't my favorite read of the month, I'm anxious to see where our book club discussion about The Light Between Oceans takes us. Have you read it? I'd love to hear your take as well.


Book: Home By Another Way
Finished: All month long

I've been reading Home By Another Way off and on all month long in preparation for Lent, Good Friday, and Easter. Barbara Brown Taylor's words speak to me, and this collection of her sermons has been a joy to read through this season. I've read a couple aloud to Jordan, and I've wondered: 

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