Quick Lit: May 2015

I found myself in a non-fiction mood more often than not this month and that shows in the books I’ll be reviewing.  Do you ever find yourself craving a certain genre?

We Bought a Zoo

This non-fiction story was at once heartbreaking and heartwarming.  It’s the story of a family who buys a run down old zoo together, faces long odds to fix it up and make it a profitable business, and suffers tragedy and the joy of family relationships and friendships along the way.  I found the details about the odd day-to-day requirements of running a zoo fascinating, everything from escaped animals to veterinary dental visits.  It was captivating and uplifting and such a fun read.

Mary Poppins

I read this for the first time as a read aloud to my kids.  Some of it was bizarre, but much of it was just as magical as I’d imagined it would be.  It’s a great read aloud book with a lot of adventures to keep the kids engaged. Mary Poppins is one of my all-time favorite movies and the scenes from the book that were included in the film were absolutely spot-on.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Wow.  I finished this book several days ago and I find myself still mulling it over.  The author’s parenting style is drastically different from mine.  I found it absolutely fascinating to peek into the author’s life and her relationship with her children.  At times while I was reading I was horrified at the cruel words and unnecessary us of parental force and manipulation she used.  At other times, I saw myself in her actions (though on a much lesser scale).  I wholeheartedly disagree with much of her parenting philosophy, and I couldn’t put the book down.  It definitely left me feeling like I’m not quite the “mean mom” I think I am at times. 😉

Working Stiff

I breezed through this book because it was so incredibly interesting to me.  It’s the non-fiction story of a woman in her first two years of being a medical examiner in New York City.  Some of the information was quite graphic, but the author is respectful and tasteful in her writing.  Learning about the process of a autopsy and death investigation was fascinating.  Reading about the author’s experience working during the aftermath of 9/11 was overwhelming.  I still can’t imagine what that must have been like for the many rescue workers and other service personnel involved.  I loved her story and highly recommend the book.  (There may be some language.  I have a tendency to tune it out, so I apologize if there is more than I realized).

Die Empty

I have been reading and learning a lot about following your passion and doing work that matters. This book was recommended to me along those lines.  I finished it, but I didn’t leave with a lot of inspiration.  I felt like it applied more to a corporate setting and less to someone trying to make it with a small creative business. There were a few helpful tidbits, but I mostly found it full of catchy phrases and jargon.

The Girl You Left Behind

Another page-turner from JoJo Moyes. This is the story of a gorgeous painting, love and loss, and the trials and hardships of life during World War I as well as the modern day.  The story weaves over a century and is compelling and sweet.  I fell in love with the characters and was completely delighted with the ending.  I don’t want to give anything away, so just read it.  And if you haven’t read Me Before You, do it soon.

War Horse

This was another read-aloud and is told from the perspective of a horse named Joey.  It takes place during WWI and is a very good introduction to war and the life of a soldier during that time period. It’s gentle but still gives a glimpse into the horribly conditions they lived in and the thoughts they had about the war.  My favorite part was an exchange between a German solider and a British soldier, out in the field.  They settle a small dispute peacefully and one of them comments that if they had just an hour together they could probably settle the war and be done with the whole dreadful thing.  I felt like that was such a true representation of the situation.  Ultimately we’re all just people and if given the chance most people are good and kind and understanding  My kids and I loved the story.

Dead End in Norvelt 

It took me a little while to get into this YA novel.  The tone was light and some of the situations were hilarious, but in the end I found it very difficult to connect with any of the characters.  I felt like the mystery showed up too late in the plot line and then wrapped up too quickly.
(currently on sale for $2.99 for Kindle, if you want to give it a try)

Inn at Ocean’s Edge

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review and I have struggled to know what to say about it. Let me start by saying that the romantic suspense genre is not something I usually read.  Also, I liked that the book was clean: no foul language, no scenes that made me blush.  But I found the story line very predictable. The mystery was not very mysterious and the discovery of details dragged on.  The characters didn’t seem to experience real emotions and I thought the author over-explained situations, like she didn’t think I was bright enough to understand.  The dialog was unbearable at times and included awkward descriptions of past events (“He hasn’t hit you again, has he? I thought he stopped that after I threatened him when I was eighteen.”) or reading emotions in others, (“You look pensive and sad…”).  I see that the author was trying to give the reader more detail, but she did it in a way that would never happen in real life. 
In short, I can’t say that I recommend the book, despite all the rave reviews I’ve read about it.