Book Reviews

June 2021: Recent Reads

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Hey readers!

Time to share the books I’ve been reading this month! I’m publishing this a bit early (normally it’s on the 15th of the month), because #moving requires working ahead.

This month I’ve been reading lots of nonfiction…in fact, I think nonfiction beat out fiction for maybe the first time EVER in my life. Or at least I read them in equal numbers. Still a first for me.

Nonfiction

On the House: A Washington Memoir by John Boehner

On the House: A Washington Memoir: Boehner, John: 9781250238443:  Amazon.com: Books

This is a brand-new book, published in April of this year. I grew up hearing Mr. Boehner’s name when my dad talked politics, and I was curious to read about this Congressman’s perspective. He held office for about 25 years, so he knows a thing or two about federal government.

While there were many worthwhile things he had to say, I didn’t appreciate the expletives liberally sprinkled throughout the book. Right when I’d almost put it down because of his use of four-letter words, he’d write some nugget of wisdom – or droll observation – that made me decide to keep reading. Just keep that, and a couple of crass analogies, in mind if you decide to pick this one up.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

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I wrote in greater detail about this book a couple of weeks ago, so check it out if you want more thoughts. But for now, I’ll just say that the ideas in this book are one that are sticking with me in the best of ways. It’s been a few weeks and the principles and suggestions he gives continue to come to mind. They’re practical, simple, and the fact that he’s encouraging people to bite off just enough to chew makes it easier to put his ideas to work in your life. If you are interested in kicking some bad habits and/or adding some new habits in, I highly recommend this book!

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby

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The Color of Compromise is a good entry-level read on how we got where we are today with racism in America, specifically within the American Christian Church. Tisby begins with a historical survey of major events, movements, and people that led the Church to be complicit in racism, rather than acting to eradicate it. (Don’t worry, when I heard “historical survey,” I feared I’d be bored; it wasn’t as bad as I thought).

I was both shocked and unsurprised at the acts and words of people I was raised to respect and admire. I was also saddened at how easy it can be in any generation to maintain blind spots in one’s own thoughts, beliefs, and actions, rather than standing on conviction that is based on truth.

Reading this book – as well as some others I’m currently reading – caused me to continue to examine my own subconscious beliefs toward Black people in the U.S.. Actually, not just the U.S., but in general. Racism isn’t just in the U.S., as I’ve witnessed in my time in Ecuador. It seems to be a human problem. Toward the end, Tisby gives many suggestions for how to “skillfully advocate” for the end of racism, both within the Church and without. His conclusion was, as my church friends would say, “fire!” I listened to it twice because I needed those words to sink deeper. Read it, friends.

Fiction

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

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What a fascinating read! Although the author notes at the end that she doesn’t know of any woman trying to “pass” for white in the Women Airforce Pilots (WASP) during WWII, Smith skillfully presents the conundrum Black people experienced during World War II: they wanted to help with the fight, but the country they were fighting for discriminated against and discouraged them from doing so.

The story follows Ida Mae Jones as she seeks to fulfill her long-time dream of becoming a female pilot. Her methods are not what you’d call above board, but her motives and flying abilities are on point. She finagles her way into the WASP and becomes one of the best pilots they have, along with two friends she makes during training.

Smith portrays the heartache of these women as they lose loved ones, their fierce determination to fight, and also somehow manages to make an ambiguous ending bittersweet rather than unsatisfactory. On the whole, I really enjoyed this book!

There are a few expletives, but only a few, in the whole book. They didn’t bother me too much. There is also not really any romantic/sexual content to be concerned about either. How refreshing!

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

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I started listening to this book because I found it on someone else’s blog post titled something like “Wholesome books like Anne of Green Gables” or some such thing. I actually reread Anne of Green Gables this month, because I love it so much. And I always appreciate wholesome reads. So I gave this one a shot. It’s set in the 1900s – from around the world wars until the early 2000s.

Fictional Hannah Coulter tells the story of her life as an old woman looking back on the past, and it is rambly. The rambling makes sense, because old people sometimes do that. But it jumps around on the timeline of her life instead of proceeding in a linear fashion, which wasn’t my favorite.

However, the prose, and “her” thoughts about life, were exquisitely written, which made me keep listening. There were moments when I wanted to pause the audiobook just to ponder what she said. Some comments were about modern life and community which I found thought-provoking.

This was my first Wendell Berry novel – I haven’t read his more popular Jayber Crow, though I’ve heard good reviews about it. To sum up my thoughts: this isn’t a page-turning read, but it is wholesome (apart from a few “hells”), thought-provoking, and has a contemplative mood. If you’re looking for a calm read that makes you think a bit (but not too much), you might want to pick this one up.

Middle Grade Reads/Student Spotlight

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

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I’ve had this one on hold for quite some time, and it finally came through this month – along with a whole bunch of other holds. Why do all the holds always arrive at the same time??

Show Me a Sign tells the story of Mary Lambert, a young girl on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1800s. She was deaf and lived in a community where a large percentage were deaf, so everyone there spoke in sign language. The deafness for most people was inherited, which understandably fascinated outsiders.

However, for Mary, that was all she’d ever known. When a stranger came to town to “study” the strange inherited deafness, her world was rocked and she got into trouble when he wanted to take a “live specimen” back to the mainland for study.

I found LeZotte’s plot complex as she wove together the intricacies of relations with Native American people, the experience of being deaf in a community that accepted it versus the wider society who treated deaf people as unintelligent, and the heart-level grief that Mary’s family were dealing with from the death of her brother. While the plot is complex, I think it is still accessible for middle grade readers, and would help open their eyes to how physical differences don’t tell the whole story about a person.

Content to consider: the stranger, along with some others, physically abuse Mary when he takes her away. At one point, Mary and her friend wrap themselves in sheets and try to commune with Mary’s dead brother. Mary feels more closure after that, even though he doesn’t make an appearance.

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Review written by 5th grader T.

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If it is rainy, snowy, sunny or windy and you are bored, read Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism. It is a funny and boredom breaker, and it is a really good adventure book. It also has really interesting characters like Molly Moon herself and Dana. Another interesting character is Petunia and of course her trusty friend Rocky. But just because Molly has a trusty friend does not mean there is trouble. There is someone watching her every move and putting her on a dangerous quest. 

If you like adventure books and humor books, well, read Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism and look in your pantry for a snack, get comfortable and prepare for a bunch of lol’s. The first time I read this I laughed so much I almost cried of laughter. Ever since it has been one of my favorite books. Another reason you should read this book is because it has really good vocabulary. And it has you really in the book and great creativity. So that is why you should read this book. This book is put in the humor and adventure section for me and rated 5/5!


I hope you find some new titles to try out!

What have you been reading lately? Please share in the comments below!

One thought on “June 2021: Recent Reads

  1. I read that same post about books that are similar to Anne of Green Gables and I was glad that Hannah Coulter was mentioned, though I wouldn’t have made the connection myself. I really like Hannah Coulter as a slow-paced and character-driven novel. I liked it more than Jayber Crow or the two other Berry novels I’ve read. The contemplative style of an older person looking back at their younger days reminds me of Gilead by Marianne Robinson. I love that trio of books!

    Here are my recent reads, if interested! https://elle-alice.blogspot.com/2021/06/may-book-reviews.html

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