The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott--4 stars: This was the very first novel Louisa May Alcott wrote at just 17! It is definitely no Little Women, but her writing is still outstanding for a teenager. If I had written a novel at 17, it would've been Amish fiction or something cringe-inducing like that. Truly. So I have nothing but the utmost respect for my girl Louisa. It's kind of an old-fashioned rags to riches story with a pinch of Mean Girls. The book is short, the characters are pretty one-dimensional and borderline annoying at times, the plot is fairly predictable, but I love it. It was charming, delightful, and reminded me a lot of Jane Austen's Persuasion.
For fans of: Little Women, Jane Austen, all things prim and proper
Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson--5 stars: Oh my (five) stars, this book. THIS BOOK. This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. It absolutely broke me. Abby Johnson worked her way up from college intern to Director at her local Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. It wasn't until she actually helped assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion, and she saw the baby try to fight for its life, that she truly realized what takes place during an abortion. She ended up walking away from Planned Parenthood shortly after and joining the Coalition for Life, which she had considered her enemy for years. She walks the reader through her thought process in why she thought being pro-choice was a noble stance, and how her colleagues really believed they were helping women who need it. No matter your view on abortion, I think this is an incredible book for understanding both sides of the spectrum and why people fight for each side. The writing wasn't my favorite, but Abby's story more than makes up for it.
For fans of: politics, transformation stories, sobbing halfway through the first chapter
I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison by Kay Wills Wyma--2 stars: Bleeeehhhhh. I pretty much skimmed this book because it was just not my cup of tea. I've had this on my list to read for ages, so I thought I'd give it a try. I found it very annoying. This book probably could've been 50 pages instead of 250. She said the same thing over and over, and the whole point was to be happy for someone instead of being jealous. I didn't need to read 500 boring anecdotes about her 5 kids (who she refers to by annoying code names) to know that. She literally spent one full chapter reliving the mortification that a friend saw the inside of her messy fridge when she brought brownies over for her just because. If those are her problems in life, then I don't have much sympathy. There are a lot of rave reviews and she made a few good points, but honestly I think this book could've been so much better.
For fans of: reading about the daily intricacies of a busy PTA mom, reading about feeling jealous of all the other PTA moms,
For fans of: feeling comforted and understood, theology, faith
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi--5 stars: Another crazy powerful and fantastic book. Nabeel was raised in an incredibly devout Muslim family. He loved Islam and wanted to shout it from the rooftops. He met a friend in college who was a Christian. They frequently butted heads about religion, but they challenged each other constantly. Both were incredibly intelligent, and in order to defend Islam, Nabeel started fanatically researching the origins of his religion and Christianity. He had never once questioned his faith, but after years of research and debates, he realized that historical facts support Christianity far more than they do Islam. After a long and painful process, he became a Christian and went into full-time ministry. Nabeel gives a very in-depth look at the life of a devout Muslim. He explains their prayer rituals, beliefs, and culture. He goes through all his research and explains how history supports Christianity and not Islam, and he dissects every argument a Muslim can use against a Christian. It was fascinating. I've never read such an intellectual take on religion, and I loved it. Even if you're not a Christian or a Muslim, but you're interested in religion, philosophy, or faith, I recommend it. It was incredible and profound, though occasionally dry in some spots.
For fans of: religion, theology, conversion stories, history
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard--3.5 stars: This was my February book club pick, and I have a lot of feelings about it. When I think about a food memoir set in Paris, I think of My Life in France by Julia Child, and I don't think anything can beat that. The bar is high. Elizabeth Bard is a New Yorker who studied abroad in England, and on a weekend in Paris she met a Frenchman. They eventually move in together and get married, and she has to learn to speak French, to adapt to buying her groceries in the market, and to cook like the French. She talks a lot about the cultural differences between the French and Americans, and that was probably my favorite part. I minored in French in college so there wasn't a lot that surprised me, but I had no idea how...unambitious? the French can be. First of all, I can't imagine all that's involved in marrying someone from another continent. I'm from the West Coast/Midwest and James is from the rural South, and honestly that seems like a huge cultural barrier to overcome at times. But back to the book--she ended each chapter with a series of recipes. Some I'm going to try, and some just sounded disgusting. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, and I wish she would cook for me. I think my problem is with Elizabeth herself. The first half of the book, she came off highly pretentious. A lot of her writing felt like braggy name-dropping when she talked about the restaurants and places where she would hang out (or....maybe I'm just jealous). Just something about the tone of her writing irked me. I felt like she and I didn't get off on the right foot, and I could never quite shake that first impression. I warmed up to her more the second half, and overall I'm glad I read it. Definitely worth it if you're into all things French (comme moi) and food writing.
For fans of: French, food writing, cultural differences, an art historian bemoaning the lack of gainful employment
After several convicting books, I'm looking for some lighter, happier books to dive into. I've also been working my way through the Little House on the Prairie series (5 stars all around!)(last night I dreamed I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and walked around with my hair in braids), and I'm in the middle of The Little Book of Hygge, which is basically a book about Danish culture. It's proving to me that I definitely am Danish, because I'm pretty sure the book was written about me and all the people in my Danish family.
What are you reading these days?