A couple of months ago I mentioned to my husband that a woman in a memoir I’d just finished had fallen asleep in the tub with her infant and drowned him. A few days later I realized that, no, that wasn’t right. The author of the memoir had lost a child, but the bathtub scene I was attributing to her story actually came from a fiction book I’d finished a few weeks earlier.
That’s when I knew it was high time I started keeping reading journal.
Here’s installment #2 of #KKLREADS.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I have 43 more books to read this year, but I’m going to say this now anyway: When I choose my 10 favorite books of 2016, this one will be in the top five. No question. This dystopian novel is flat-out FUN. It’s 2044 and the world has gone to crap (shocker). Like just about everyone else, Wade spends his waking hours alone, logged into a virtual reality game, racing through a computerized scavenger hunt in which his success depends on his knowledge of obscure ‘80s pop culture references. Did I mention the part about it being fun? Whether you give a rip or not about video games and John Hughes movies, I promise you will have a blast reading this fantastic book.
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
The Storied Life of AJ Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin
I picked up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry because I’d heard it was replete with bookish charm, and that’s exactly what I found when I stepped into A.J.’s story. Like Ove in A Man Called Ove, A.J. is cranky, cynical and depressed until unexpected love blows through the doors of his small-town independent bookshop. What follows is a story about why we read, why we love, and the power books have to connect us.
“We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.”
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
At the top of my list of weaknesses are golden retrievers. So when I found out Garth Stein had written a book narrated by a dog, with a goldie on the cover, I was putty in his hands. We all know our dogs see us through a gamut of life experiences, and in this book Enzo (a retriever-terrier mix) shows us how. On the eve of his death, Enzo recounts all he has seen and experienced with his owner in the decade plus he’s been a part of the family. He does it with wit, wisdom and whole lot of heart. You will love him and this book.
“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My default is to pick up books that send me to London during WWII. This one dropped me in France, and the journey was surprisingly remarkable. Kristin’s impeccable writing and beautifully drawn characters made me want to braver in love and in life. The Nightingale is historical fiction at its finest.
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
Honestly, this was never on my TBR list. I picked it up on a whim to tide me over one weekend while I waited for my library holds to arrive, and because of that I ended up reading it right after The Nightingale. Big mistake. As much as I loved Nightingale, I wasn’t really in the mood to go back to France where Germans were being jerk faces to perfectly lovely people during WWI. But that’s where I landed with this one, and it was just okay. The historical storyline is well done, but the second modern day storyline doesn’t give readers enough reasons to care about and connect with the characters.
“Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, she realizes suddenly, it is simply a matter of blind faith.”
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
When 16-year-old Laurel witnesses a violent crime involving her mother, the family hushes it up and Laurel doesn’t speak of it again. Now, fifty years later, her mother is dying, and Laurel is determined to unearth the truth while there’s still time. As Laurel searches for answers, the story flips back and forth in time between London cira 2001 and the years before and during World War II. I studied abroad in London during 2001, so I felt like I was in many of the scenes that took place in and around the neighborhood where I lived. In classic Kate Morton style, this one is full of satisfying twists & turns and a dramatic finish. I loved it.
“Don’t you find it remarkable that the whole world can be involved in this madness we call war, and all the while the flowers and the bees and the seasons keep on doing what they must, wise but never weary in their wait for humanity to come to its senses and remember the beauty of life? It is queer, but my love and longing for the world are always deepened by my absence from it; it’s wondrous, don’t you think, that a person can swing from despair to gleeful hunger, and that even in these dark days there is happiness to be found in the smallest things?”
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
Aside from being embarrassed to be seen holding this book cover, I was glad to have read Meissner’s latest release. It’s breezier than most of her other dual time period books, with the initial historical fiction set in Hollywood during the filming of Gone with the Wind, but Meissner does a lovely job of inviting readers to care about Audrey and Violet’s friendship and dreams. Definitely not my favorite Meissner read, but a very human look at friendship and 1930s Hollywood nevertheless.
“We learned to be brave when it was easier to be afraid.”
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This is one of the more cleverly composed, vibrantly written YA novels out there, and people gush about it in droves. I’ll Give You The Sun tells the story of burgeoning artists and fraternal twins Noah and Jude who share an almost telepathic bond until they are torn apart by tragedy and jealousy. It alternates between 13-year-old Noah’s perspective and 16-year-old Jude’s, covering heavy themes (parental infidelity, sexuality, rape, addiction) with sensitively and heart. I love what the Huffington Post said about it: “Sun is so much more than just another teenage love story with Real Life Themes; it’s a meditation on life, art, family, fate, and how even the most broken people can help fix one another.” Yep.
“We wish with our hands, that’s what we do as artists.”
The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper
I’m raising three PKs, so I have some big feelings about this book–and this topic–that are better saved for another post. What I will say now is that Barnabas’ words are brave, insightful and deserving of being read by anyone who has a PK under their roof, or in their church. To be continued…
“PKs want to be known, not just known of.”
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
As a white girl raising a black girl, I picked this up for the hair discussion alone. That chapter did not disappoint, and her 90s nostalgia game is certainly strong, BUT…the overall tone falls flat. The book lacks narrative structure and the pacing is, well, awkward. Still, I applaud her for writing her story. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
“If I could go back in time and slap all of the idiocy out of my mouth, I would be a busy time traveler.”
Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy
This spiritual memoir celebrates home, faith, and the ordinary days that carry our hearts through the seasons. It’s lyrical and lovely with something rich and beautiful to underline and contemplate on every page.
“Our lives are stories built of small moments. Ordinary experiences. It is too easy to forget that our days are adding up to something astonishing. We do not often stop to notice the signs and wonders. The writing on the wall. But some days we do.”
Night Driving by Addie Zierman
Once upon a time, Addie felt God. But now, at age 30, she feels nothing. Just the darkness pressing in. Just the winter cold. Just a buzzing silence where God’s voice used to be. So she loads her two small children into the minivan one February afternoon and heads south in one last-ditch effort to find the Light. Night Driving is a candid memoir about a woman making peace with a “not-so-on fire” life.
“Every now and then, God appears to his people in the blazing fire, flaming and luminous and breathtaking. But it’s less often than I always thought. And his silence marks the pages of the biblical narrative more than I ever knew…His silence stretches over years, over countries, over generations. But it’s not an abandonment, it’s an invitation. It asks something different of us than the fire does. It asks for our trust, for our hope, for us to stay as the night darkens around us and we can’t hear a thing.”
The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
This may be the tiniest book I have ever held, but what is it Shakespeare said? “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Mmhmm. Such wise, encouraging words here on the sanctifying possibilities of everyday work. If you struggle to see value and meaning in the mundane chores and responsibilities that are on repeat in your life, this book will shift your perspective and lift your head.
“We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.”