What I Read in September

Oct 5, 2018

September reading consisted of starting multiple audiobooks and finishing almost none of them. The hold lists at the library are killing me right now. My books all come in at the same time. Most of them I've been waiting on for weeks, if not months, and feel compelled to listen to them so I don't have to go back in the hold line. But some of them are particularly time sensitive because I need to finish them before a specific date (i.e., when book club meets). Anyway, it's a difficult shuffle of prioritizing and choosing what to abandon (for now) in order to finish what is most pressing. Also, unrelated, the boys and I started Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and that thing is massive. And I also decided to screen four parenting books to decide which one I actually wanted to read for my parenting book goal. So what this all comes down to was that I started a lot of books in September but finished only three of them.

1. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
You've probably seen the cover of this book floating around on the Costco table or being displayed in a bookstore's front window. It's a popular one right now (a fact that is attested by both of my book clubs, who happened to choose it for September and November).

I jumped in knowing almost nothing about the book (except that many called it a "hard" read), and I liked it that way. It's one of those stories, not unlike a Kate Morton novel, that begins with a lot of questions and moves back and forth between two time periods, slowly answering them and filling in the details. Oh, and there's a twist (not to the level of The Secret Keeper, but startling nonetheless).

I'll keep the particulars brief so you can enjoy fitting the pieces of the puzzle together for yourself. The two key players are Rill Foss in 1939 and Avery Stafford in the present day, and both of them are intimately affected by Georgia Tann, a real woman who stole children, hid them away in the Tennessee Children's Home Society, and then marketed them to wealthy people who adopted them. And this is where you say, "Truth is stranger than fiction." Because it is.

This is just the kind of book I love getting lost in. And overall, in spite of the heavy content, it's a clean book, too.

I felt like the ending wrapped up things a little too neatly and happily to match the rest of the story. Don't get me wrong: I love a happy ending. But at one point, Rill said, "I want a pain I understand instead of the one I don't. I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone. This pain is changing me into a girl I don't even know. It's changing me into them. I see it in my sister's face. That hurts worst of all." And I kind of felt like there was a certain point in the story where that pain kind of disappeared, and I just didn't quite believe it.

But, taking the other side,  I also loved this bit of wisdom, and I think it makes a case for how one can move on past hard things: "Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn't suit the moment." So good, right?

2. A Stash of One's Own: Knitters on Loving, Living With, and Letting Go of Yarn by Clara Parkes
For me, knitting has been kind of a lonely hobby. I have very few friends who know how to knit, and of those who do, none of them love it the way I do. Most of the time, I don't mind. I can be, after all, a rather solitary creature and so knitting suits my need for quiet time alone.

But there are times when I would really love to talk to a friend about a new pattern or a favorite yarn or a cool technique. And not just a friend who will nod politely and say, "That's nice" but someone who will actually match my enthusiasm with some of their own.

But since that's not currently possible, this book was an acceptable substitute. It's a collection of essays from knitters, and I felt a little like I'd found my people (granted, on just one level, but a level where none of my real friends reside). The essays spoke specifically to the topic of a yarn stash, a collection that all knitters have, although the size of said stash can be wildly different.

It was rather fascinating to read about all of the emotions and feelings and turmoil that can be tied up in yarn--and to relate to a good deal of it.

Of course, I didn't relate to every single knitter, but I thought each essay was interesting nonetheless. My favorites were "Triptych" (about the careful balance between a stash that feeds creative energy and one that burdens it), "Without a Stash" (which most closely aligned to my personal philosophy), "Yarn: a Love Story" (the sweetest story about turning yarn into a career), and "The Comfort Yarn" (about how knitting navigated the dark waters of grief).

I debated sharing the very last paragraph from this book because I thought it was so hilarious, but I decided it probably wouldn't improve the general population's opinion of knitters, so you'll just have to wonder about it . . .

3. Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George
At the beginning of the school year, I thought it might be a good time to try out a chapter book with Clark. Up until then, he hadn't really listened in on any of our readalouds, usually opting to go off with Mike and read a picture book or two instead.

I was pretty sure he was ready to handle a longer, more complex story though because he loved listening to slightly longer picture books/early chapter books, such as Mercy Watson or The Princess in Black.

In retrospect, I probably should have chosen a tried and true favorite of ours, one that I'd already tested out with my older kids. But instead, I went with a recommendation from Janssen for the Heartwood Hotel series because she and her five-year-old daughter had loved the first book. It looked so cute, but I knew my older kids were well past it, so it seemed like the perfect book for Clark and me to read together in the afternoons.

Except . . . we just didn't love it. It wasn't so much that there was anything wrong with it as that it just didn't hold our interests. The protagonist, Mona (a mouse), loses her home in a storm and gets carried away down the river. When she finally scrambles out, she finds herself at a large, beautiful tree, which turns out to be the Heartwood Hotel, where the motto is, "We live by 'Protect and Respect,' not by 'Tooth and Claw.'" She doesn't have any money, but Mr. Heartwood hires her as a temporary maid. But Mona quickly falls in love with the other members of the staff (except for standoffish Tilly) and the guests, and she longs to have a real home of her own.

I think part of the problem, for Clark at least, was that there were just a lot of characters to keep track of. Even with reviewing them before we started reading each day, he still was always asking, "Who's Ms. Prickles? Which one is Lord Sudsbury?" And then, the story was just a little too gentle and quiet to keep him engaged. Luckily, in the last half, Mona stands up to a bear and a pack of wolves, and that helped perk up his interest considerably.

All in all, it was a cute story, but not the right one for us. We still finished it, but I don't think we'll read any of the others, and now I feel like I need to redeem myself a little with our next choice so he actually likes longer readalouds. Recommendations?

Have you read any of theses (I'm guessing not the knitting book . . . )? What did you read in September?

1 comment:

  1. Books with Clark: Well, I get all my recommendations from the Cybils, so you know them all. Clementine? Dory Fantasmagory? Wedgie and Gizmo? Princess Harriet? Although my favorite of last years elementary picks is currently the nonfiction Two Truths and a Lie; he might enjoy the interactive nature of that one.


Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground