A Garden of Tiny Book Reviews

I have been reading a metric ton this summer–fiction plus memoir, my two favorite genres, in hardbacks and paperbacks exclusively. I haven’t liked looking at screens to read, of late. Not that anybody asked, but I clearly like to overshare when it comes to my reading habits.

I don’t have the mental bandwidth what with the all-kids-all-the-time tableau at my house this summer, so these really are going to be little/possibly not very thorough reviews of:

Books I Have Enjoyed to Varying Degrees. Beginning with…

Classics

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

I no longer have to hide my face in shame over not having read The Great American Read or whatever. I read it. I found it pretty avant garde for the time in which it was written. I do not feel about it the way much of the world seems to feel, which is that it is the one book that most deeply touched them. Holden Caulfield as a character has a big, memorable voice. His narration is the best part of this funny, yet essentially sad story. I value this book and what it has to offer. It is an important book. But I’m not in love with it. There. I said it.

Historical Fiction

The Summer Before War by Helen Simonsen

I found this book delightful. It felt like Downton Abbey set in Sussex solely before and during The Great War. Beatrice and Hugh as central characters are lovely and real and just what I always want in a good book, which are people I can really SEE and believe in. There is a lot of humor in this story of a small English town and its quirky residents as they come up against the brutality of a war. Because it’s also a war story, it’s not all garden parties and happy endings. I loved it.

Magical Realism

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman is a prolific (seriously so prolific) and excellent writer who favors magic, witchery, and dark themes in her stories about people who have a different set of gifts, yet who still must cope with the vicissitudes of life. This book follows the three teenage Owens siblings in New York City, who have been forbidden by their mother from dabbling in anything relating to magic, yet who seemingly can’t keep the development of their proclivity for these powers away. They are schooled in becoming who they are by their aunt Isabelle, who lives in the family’s ancestral home in Massachusetts, of Salem Witch Trials fame. I did not expect this book to follow the sibs through their entire lives, but it does and I found that it was more than a fantasy with lush imagery. It was a solidly written, tender story of a family, which does tend toward dark outcomes.

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This book reminded me a bit of Station Eleven, which scared me to death, yet which I enjoyed nonetheless. But The Dog Stars was much better imho. So much better. The narrator, Hig, is one of few people left after a flu decimates the world’s population. He is a gentle soul, yet somehow manages to survive in the brutal aftermath, where people will kill each other to take each others’ supplies, even if it’s just a bunch of cans of soda. There is also so much beauty–so much awareness for what life is and what makes it worthwhile. I don’t even know how to summarize this story in order to do it justice. It is sad, hopeful, inventive, human, and beautiful. I loved this book and felt that it changed me.

Women’s Fiction

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

I have liked everything I’ve read by Moriarty, whose stories are set in Australia. This is one of her earlier books and it felt a little less polished to me than What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I still enjoyed it, but felt that the story had some pretty implausibly big gaps. It’s about a mystery surrounding a family living on Scribbly Gum island near Sydney, involving a baby, a possible double murder, and multiple story lines which eventually do find resolution. It’s light-hearted chick lit. A beach read, basically.

Young Adult Lit

Thief of Happy Endings by Kristen Chandler

Chandler is a Utah writer (yay locals!) whose story follows a teen girl whose parents are divorcing. Cassidy spends the summer away from her family on a troubled youth horse ranch in Wyoming, where she struggles not only with getting on a horse and being constantly dirty, but with understanding who she is. This book could have felt really predictable, but it wasn’t. There’s a bit of romance and a hefty dose of coming to terms with difficult family situations in this introspective coming-of-age tale.

The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

Pearson’s three books in this fantasy series have really sappy titles (The Kiss of Deception, The Heart of Betrayal, and The Beauty of Darkness), but that didn’t stop me from diving in and immersing myself happily in the story of a runaway princess avoiding an arranged marriage. Lia, the protagonist, has a firecracker personality and spends the trilogy realizing she is destined to save a country far to the east, but historically connected with her own land. Because this is kind of epic, world-building stuff, there is A LOT that happens. So much. I can’t do it justice here. I read all three books in a matter of days. They were a delightful escape, as books in summer should be.

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

The blurb on the cover of this book describes it as “Hatchet meet The Revenant” with a big dose of fierce female resilience, which is pretty spot on. It’s the story of a young woman who ends up stranded, injured, and alone in the remote Canadian wilderness for six months. She writes the book in the first person, in a journal form, which skips between her life before and the stark reality of survival which comes after the events which placed her in this situation. It is scary, raw, and exciting, but would benefit from more exploration of Jess’s emotional journey.

Reader, what are you reading? Or better yet, what are the three best books you’ve read in the past year? Comment and give me and each other some good recommendations xoxo.

  8 comments for “A Garden of Tiny Book Reviews

  1. Katie
    August 2, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Okay, best books I’ve read in the past year.

    1. “Educated” by Tara Westover is a must-read. I think it resonated because she’s from Cache Valley, went to BYU, although our growing up experiences were different as night and day.
    2. “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown (whom I refer to as the prophetess Brene Brown because she might as well be). Love her stuff, and if you haven’t read her others, “Daring Greatly,” “Rising Strong,” and “The Gifts of Imperfection,” you absolutely should.
    3. Lorinda actually recommended “Nicholas and Alexandra” to me, and I was floored by how interesting it was.
    4. “The Little Book of Hygge” was a fun, fascinating read–I think heading into fall and winter it’d be good to hear how the Danes create coziness in their homes/lives.
    5. “The War I Finally Won” is a great read–it’s a sequel to “The War That Saved My Life,” which my girls and I read and loved. Both are Young Adult and an absolute delight.
    6. I enjoyed “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” because it reminded me how simple and fun cooking can be–it inspired me to do a little more home cooking.

    That’s twice as many as you wanted, but it’s too hard to narrow it down!

  2. Terry
    August 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Have you read:
    A Gentleman In Moscow – delightful
    Love Walked In (1 of 3) – fluffy but not mind-numbingly so
    Louise Penny’s Gamache mysteries – all good
    This Is How It Always Is – so interesting
    I’ve also listened to some great stuff on Audible this summer (in the car a lot) – Born A Crime, Killers of the Flower Moon, Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Middlemarch.
    You should follow me on Goodreads – we can keep up with each other’s recommendations. ❤️

  3. Terry
    August 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Have you read:
    A Gentleman In Moscow – delightful
    Love Walked In (1 of 3) – fluffy but not mind-numbingly so
    Louise Penny’s Gamache mysteries – all good
    This Is How It Always Is – so interesting
    I’ve also listened to some great stuff on Audible this summer (in the car a lot) – Born A Crime, Killers of the Flower Moon, Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Middlemarch.
    You should follow me on Goodreads – we can keep up with each other’s recommendations. ❤️

  4. Jennie
    August 2, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I’m in awe and love your voracious pace. I want to up my game. I feel the same way about Catcher. And something interesting is students the last few years have been utterly unimpressed. Dare I say that classic ship has sailed?

    I’m reading a memoir I love (I read her blog for many years) that I think you’d like: Places I Stopped Along the Way Home by Meg Fee.

  5. Andrea Goates
    August 3, 2018 at 6:24 am

    So the best book I have read this year is “A Man Called Ove” it is a story about an older man in Sweden and his frustration with how the world is changing around him.
    I couldn’t recommend it more. I listened to it on Audible, but I am sure the paper copy would be excellent.

    I also enjoyed a Monstorous Regiment of Women (think Sherlock Holmes with women), The Way of Kings (fantasy) and Artemis by Andy Weir (though his book, The Martian was better)

    I am impressed with your variety of books!

  6. Heidi
    August 3, 2018 at 8:47 am

    “There, There” by Tommy Orange……everyone should read it.

  7. Katie
    August 10, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I want to second “Educated” by Tara Westover.
    Some good ones from this year: “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FIne” by Gail Honeyman
    “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles
    “Little Fires Everywhere” Celeste Ng
    And, “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead was a surprisingly good YA read that came out of no where.

  8. Beth
    September 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    The Queens Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Typically not my genre, but it has swept me away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *