Book Review

Book Reviews: June 2017

 

Surprise, surprise. My plans for June (all the reading! all the wine!) did not go as planned. But that’s okay! I was kept busy moving and unpacking and attempting to make our new house feel like home. It’s getting there, but like all good things, it takes time. With my office painted (feature post coming soon!) I’m beginning to feel settled and relaxed.

But the few books I did manage to read, I wanted to share with you!

 

The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia Story

by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Like 115% of the HGTV viewership, I’m obsessed with Fixer Upper. I love the format of the show, the renovations, the decor style, but most of all, I love watching their very real, very authentic relationship play on screen. They’re simply adorable. And their book has been on my “To Read” radar for months. But with the waitlist at the library, I kept waiting. When Corey downloaded the eBook and read it in two days, and texted me passages that I felt related to our own relationship, I knew I needed to read this book ASAP. So I requested it and received a copy in a matter of days. And then I read this book in one day. The narrative was simply wonderful, as if one was having a conversation with Chip and Jo about their history. While the book does gloss over the difficult times they faced, it does at least talk about the fact that it wasn’t always a bed of roses. And yet, I almost preferred that their trials were kept private. There are some things we don’t need to know. At the end of the day, I thought it was a sweet and uplifting read for life, love, and following your passions.

Flight of the Sparrow

Flight of the Sparrow

by Amy Belding Brown

This one popped up on my radar when a patron came in requesting it because it was her bookclub pick for the month. The title intrigued me and as I read the description of a fictionalized portrayal of Puritan, Mary Rowlandson’s captivity by Indians in 1676, I was hooked. Within my own family research, I discovered an ancestor on my father’s side, Martha (Ketcherel) Wright, who was killed in 1708 when Indians attacked the Wright home in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was scalped at the time of the attack and died three months later. I have a feeling that there’s a story in there waiting to be told and so I was curious what I might learn from this narrative. I placed a hold on it as well and when it arrived in early June, I eagerly dove in.

Puritan New England is a time in history that I know little about, except that the sailors on the Mayflower called the Puritans “glib-glabbety puke stockings” which is just about the most profound insult I’ve ever heard. I’ve always associated the Puritans with extremely fanatical religious views who had the whole “big brother is watching” vibe going on, because if your neighbor isn’t up to par, you better believe your own household is in imminent danger. And, honestly, that’s how it went down in the book. Mary is a kind soul, albeit, with a fiery temper who has difficulty cow-towing to her husband’s demands requests. I found her time in captivity to be especially fascinating because it’s not like anything one expects. And her trials upon returning to civilization broke my heart. But she came out of the wilderness with changed beliefs and by the end of the book you know that she was changed for the better.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

Or, as I would’ve title it: “Lincoln in the Disappointment” which makes my heart die a little to type. I sooo wanted to love this book! When a coworker told me about it, I was fascinated. To think! A well-known and well-respected author having written a book with similar themes to my own WIP, “A Wretched’s Grace“. And the subject: Willie Lincoln, son to President Abraham Lincoln, who passed away in in the midst of the Civil War. But, alas, this book and me were not meant to be.

The book itself takes place over the course of a night in a cemetery (although there are many flashback sections that discuss Willie’s illness among other things). The format was interesting, although, a little difficult to decipher at first. A character speaks, often in broken sentences or fragmented stories that are complicated to piece together, but after about fifteen pages or so, I was able to catch the gist. Mostly.

What irritated me, however, was the amount of book which was simply quotes from other books or from newspaper articles of the time. When I said as much to my coworker, she said she had done a little research and while some of the quotes do come from others, some were supposedly written by Saunders himself, although he does not clarify which is which. Even still, it feels like a collection of quotes from other writers. He did a tremendous amount of research, but to me, it seems like cheating. Technically, someone/s else wrote the majority of the book. Saunders simply created the story set in “the Bardo“. And because that story was difficult to follow, or even understand why some of the spirits remained, I gave up reading it around page 50. I tried flipping through to see if anything caught my interest, but by that point I was so bored with the story that I simply didn’t care. I will say, the audiobook intrigues me. 164 narrators! That might just hold my interest, and make things easier to understand. Also, this 360 degree video created by the New York Times is just gorgeous and makes me want to love this book. This is the trouble I get for trying to read the “hyped” book of the time. I’m just not a fan. But I’m sure I’ll give it another try at some point.

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