4.23.2018

recent reads

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott--3 stars: I don't have a lot to say about this book other than meh. Little Women is one of my favorite books, and Little Men follows the boys in Jo's school. It's cute, but it's basically just the shenanigans of young and adolescent boys, and honestly that's not something I care to read about. It was sweet and charming, and some chapters were really good, but overall it just didn't hook me that much. I've come to the conclusion that reading about kids is not one of my favorite things. It's the reason Rainbow Valley is my least favorite book of the Anne of Green Gables series. Take my words with a grain of salt if this is more your thing.

For fans of: teenage boys, teenage boys stealing, teenage boys fighting, teenage boys being disciplined


Jo's Boys by Louise May Alcott--4 stars: Now THIS was more my speed! Jo's Boys is like the reunion show of Little Men, and it checks in with the boys 10 years down the road when they're all starting life out on their own. You do need to read Little Men to fully appreciate this one. I just loved it. Some of the chapters were a bit boring, but overall I adored it. So cute and sweet. I do need someone to talk to me about Dan, though. I have a lot of feelings I'm still trying to process.

For fans of: Little Women, Where Are They Now? articles, Anne of Green Gables series 






Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller--2 stars: If you like Little House on the Prairie but find it too cheerful and lacking in awkward sex scenes, then Caroline is the book for you! It follows Little House on the Prairie, but from Caroline's point of view. Lemme tell you, it is DEPRESSING. It's the exact same stories as Laura's version, but stripped of their childlike charm and innocence. I also knew exactly what was going to happen in every story, so it felt boring and slow. The writing style was another beef of mine. It was overly poetic to the point of feeling sensual and graphic. It's hard to explain, but it was very Ann Voskampy. The metaphors were weird, her constant mentions of using the bathroom and other such things started to feel a little graphic, and it was just...too much. The real Caroline would clutch her calico skirts in horror. A friend of mine sent me this book to read when Colleen died because she knew I would need a distraction and love all things Little House. It really was the perfect distraction from real life. Reading from Caroline's POV really was fascinating in a lot of ways, but it focused so much on her thoughts and feelings which are 100% fiction and speculation. Love the concept, but I wish it gone in a very different direction.

For fans of: a lot of scenes about breastfeeding and breastmilk, The Angsty Person's Guide to Little House on the Prairie, 50 Shades of Calico Dresses


We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter--4.75 stars: YES. This book was incredible. It's like Parenthood, but if the Bravermans were Jewish and living in Poland during the 30s. The whole family was scattered around the world during the war, and they spent the better part of a decade trying to track each other down to see if they survived. It's based on the lives of the author's family, so it's a true story. Mind-boggling. Each chapter is fairly short and focuses on one member or unit of the family. There were parts about a mother and her daughter Gracie's age that had me in real tears. My only issue was that  there were so many family members with similar names that I struggled to remember who was who and how they were all related, even down to the last page. That aside, I highly recommend it.

For fans of: Lilac Girls, Secrets of a Charmed Life, The Pianist, Parenthood, big happy families




Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly--5 stars: While this won't be a 5 star read for everyone, I absolutely devoured this book. Scott Kelly went from nearly failing out of school to becoming the first astronaut to spend a year living in space. I remember seeing some of his posts when he was still living on the ISS, and I've been periodically keeping up with him. Kelly goes into great detail about what it's like to live and work in space, including what it smells like, sounds like, and how to move around in zero gravity. Part of his mission was to test the effects of zero gravity on the body, so he routinely performed experiments on himself to compare the results with his twin brother, who is also an astronaut but who was on the ground. One of my favorite parts is how Kelly describes the way the US and Russians work harmoniously in space even though our countries are not friends on earth. The work they do in space for the good of society transcends all cultural and political differences, and I find that encouraging and powerful. They face emergencies while living on the ISS, such as fires, high carbon dioxide levels making it hard to function, and multiple resupply rockets that blow up on their way to the space station, forcing countries to share and ration their food and water. Kelly doesn't quite have the storytelling finesse that Mike Massimino has in Spaceman, but this book is deeply fascinating for anyone interested in the topic. It's going to stay with me for a long time. I stand by my opinion that astronauts are modern day superheroes. They're also modern day Oregon Trail pioneers, because space is basically the last frontier and so much scarier than the prairies of earth.

For fans of: Spaceman, The Astronaut Wives Club, imagining life in a floating tin can for an entire year, NASA, descriptions of hurtling through the atmosphere as a fireball, Little House on the Prairie but more sci-fi


The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure--3.5 stars: I saw this at the library after a long text conversation with friends about wanting to visit all the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, so obviously it was fate. I both loved this book and wanted to throw it out the window. McClure writes about her childhood love of Laura, and to this I can fully relate. I have vivid memories of staying up late reading with my flashlight, and even reading passages of the Little House books to my friends when they came over (they loved that, I'm sure). I've been a Laura fan for as long as I can remember. After reading the books through as an adult, McClure decides to go on a pilgrimage to all the Little House sites. She's basically living my best life now. I did my latest reread just over a year ago, and I spent LITERAL HOURS scrolling through pictures of every site and Google Mapping them. I'm trying to convince my mom to go with me because I am SALIVATING at the thought of seeing the actual places where Laura actually lived (my heart rate is up and I need to calm down). She takes her boyfriend with her, and he is fantastic because he reads the series so he can share in everything with her. He's also hysterical and his quotes are my favorite part of the book. I got frustrated when she started nitpicking the different kinds of people she saw at the historical sites---many of them--DUH--conservative Christian types, of which McClure is not. That's totally fine! But she gets real judgey real fast, and I lost a lot of respect for her. She did come across a weird survivalist sect that took things a little far, but she spends pages making fun of them to the point that I almost stopped reading because it was leaving such a bad taste in my mouth. She also said she hated Laura's newspaper columns she wrote around the turn of the century about simple things and daily joys, calling them boring. That fired me up because HELLO that's one of the main points of the Little House books! Focusing on the simple joys of life is what makes Laura so charming! Other than some things like that, the book is enjoyable and funny. I especially enjoyed reading about the wild thunderstorm they experienced while sleeping in a covered wagon on the Ingalls homestead in South Dakota. I might have been a little jealous.

For fans of: Laura Ingalls Wilder, churning butter, believing you're a better person than anyone who liked the Little House TV show (I liked the show--sue me, McClure!)


I'm just now realizing there's a definitely Little House on the Prairie theme which was not intentional, but what can I say? I have limited interests. It took me an eternity to get through the first two books for some reason, so my reading has been lagging a bit lately. I'm back in the zone now and waiting for James to bring me home a stack of library books tonight, and the anticipation is tantalizing.

What have you been reading lately?

10 comments:

  1. I never even knew there were other books in the Little Women line of books. Interesting!
    We were the Lucky Ones sounds like it needs to go no my list

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  2. Ah, I’m bummed to hear about the graphic stuff in Caroline...I snagged it on kindle a few months ago when it was like $1, but maybe I’ll skip it now! I’m definitely checking out We We’re The Lucky One. Right now I’m reading I Was Anastasia and concurrently listening to The Romanov Sisters (per Anne Bogel’s recommendation) - it’s really fascinating!

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  3. Oh man, I am going to have to read that Endurance book! It sounds totally awesome. The Wilder Life sounds pretty good, too! Thanks for the heads-up about the judgeyness. That kind of stuff drives me crazy (why do people feel the need to belittle others whom they don't see eye-to-eye with???), BUT the concept of the book sounds fantastic and I love the Little House books, so I think I need to read it. I've never been to any of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, but when I was little our homeschool group once went to this "Pioneer School" thing and it was pretty grand.

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  4. I agree the parts in We Were the Lucky Ones about the mom and her toddler were very emotional. I had a hard time picturing R acting like that (being quiet, etc.) but I realize it's a different time and kids had to grow up so much faster. Such a powerful story! I love all of Louisa May Alcott's books in that series of stories (there's Rose in Bloom too!), but definitely nothing quite like the original Little Women.

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  5. Endurance sounds so fascinating!

    I love the Little House on the Prarie theme. That’s the way I am about the Brontes 😍

    I just finished Nothing to Envy. I had trouble focusing on it at first which is why I abandoned it for awhile (I don’t know if it was just me or Barbara just got a little crazy throwing random things together haha). I ended up really liking the book. I wish more people read it and had this book’s perspective.

    I just started a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s by a Jewish psychologist who survived the holocaust and it seems part memoir/part studies that he did to find out what gave people hope in the midst of that time.

    I just ordered a book that Tim Keller talked about on his blog called Confident Pluralism and it is suppose be all about how America was born on the idea of free thinking/expression of ideas/encouraging different viewpoints and how we can all have different beliefs but work towards living in peace. Seemed very interesting!

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    1. Isn't Nothing to Envy incredible? I think it should be required reading.

      Let me know what you think about those books! They sound great.

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  6. Authors that are super condescending irritate the crap out of me. I wasn't as obsessed with all things Little House as most people I know, but I did like it and would like to read the books, and I mean...if you're going to go on a pilgrimage to all the LH sites, you should probably expect to encounter some die-hard fanatics. Sounds like she didn't expect that. Her own fault!

    I just started Spaceman!

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  7. We Were the Lucky Ones is one my radar. I've heard nothing but good things about it.
    I heard that Scott Kelly's DNA actually changed! Like, he and his brother's DNA were waaay different by the time he came back from space. So weird!!
    Bummer about the judginess in the Wilder book. That'd make me squirm a little, too.

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  8. I'm going to get that astronaut book asap. My niece and nephew in TX almost went to a summer camp that he spoke at. Didn't he stay in space something like 340ish days? If I was him I would have tried to tough it out for another 25 days to make it a whole year!

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  9. Don't judge me, but I have yet to read Little House books! After hearing a lot of references to them in the past year, I will need to remedy this. You had two Little House-related books in April and I had two Jane Eyre-ish books in April, not on purpose but definitely enjoyed both. I LOVED Endurance! Have you already watched the TIME documentary called A Year in Space? I guess it was on TV at some point but I found it on youtube after I read the book and watched a few episodes at a time with my husband, who also really enjoyed it (and had not read the book).

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