In My Library Tote: February Book Reviews

Do you read more print books, audio books, or eBooks? Typically I prefer print books, for me it’s a more enjoyable experience to hold a “real” book in my hand and physically turn the pages. However, I’ve increased the amount of audio and eBooks I read in the past few years because you can’t beat the convenience of either. When I was looking at my books read last month, I was surprised to realize that only one of the seven is a hardcover print book--the rest are either audiobooks (checked out from the library) or eBooks (purchased via Kindle deals). Anyway, here’s what I read.

{The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne} I’ve read a lot of good books in 2019, but this is the first that stood out to me as a potential favorite for the year. With some books, you can feel their length, but for this one, the 567 pages flew by. I did not want to stop reading this book! I thought the Girl Next Door podcast had a great discussion of the book here, and I agree with what they said about the characters being charming and likable, even the ones--like Cyril’s adoptive parents--who clearly don’t make the best choices. I don’t shy away from books that are dark, but at the same time I appreciated that this book had a true balance of heavy and light. While Cyril’s life growing up as a gay young man in 1960s and 70s Ireland was profoundly difficult, Boyne also weaved humor and lightheartedness into the difficulties he faced. While there were many parts that certainly broke my heart, I left this book feeling hopeful and at peace with Cyril’s story. What a wonderful book. My rating: 4.5/5 stars. 

{The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya} In this memoir, Clemantine tells her story of growing up in Rwanda during the genocide in the 1990s and having to flee the country with her sister. They lived as refugees in seven African countries before eventually being granted asylum in the US. One of the things I appreciated about this moving memoir was the point Clemantine made about her story being just one of many. I’m sure I’m not alone in that often I read a memoir that’s a survival story I think about how amazing and brave that person was, and while I do think Clemantine is amazing and brave, she made it clear that she was just living her life and trying to survive. She reminds us that so many others were doing the same thing but did not survive. My only regret in reading this is that I didn’t have the text in front of me while I listened--there are many wise truths about war, being a refugee and survivor, and just being a human, that I would have like to have written down. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed} I listened to this on audio, and while Cheryl Strayed doesn’t narrate it herself, I still recommend the audio version. While I was already familiar with this memoir, and the fact that it had been turned into a movie (that I haven’t seen), it wasn’t until I listened to Oprah’s interview with Cheryl Strayed on her podcast that I decided to pick up Wild. I am not the least bit outdoorsy, I don’t like to camp, and I’m pretty much a weenie in general about bugs, bad weather, and many other things you might encounter in the great outdoors. That made Strayed’s story all the more fascinating to me, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to hack it. Fascinating as the details of her expedition on the Pacific Crest Trail were, it was her inner story that I enjoyed most of all. Through her physical exertion and bravery she was able to work through the grief of losing her mom as well as that of her recent divorce. Her hike wasn’t at all an escape, but instead it was the thing that allowed her to face her feelings head on. I loved that. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry} This book was something else. Police bring a little girl to the hospital and it’s clear that she has been severely abused. She warms up to a doctor on her case, and he and his wife, a nurse, end up taking her home as emergency foster parents at first, then eventually as adoptive parents. With the trauma she experienced, they knew they would have their hands full, but Janie, ends up being a lot more psychologically damaged than they had imagined. This was hard and disturbing to read, yet at the same time I could not put it down. There are a lot of triggers in this book though so I would avoid it if you are sensitive to violence involving children, or if you are pregnant or have a newborn (especially if you already have an older child). Otherwise, I do recommend this book. The author is a trauma psychologist specializing in children, so this shocking story, while fiction, has some basis in what she has seen. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott} This is the second book I read by Ann Lamott and while I liked the first--Stitches--I enjoyed this one more. I listened on audio, and I mentioned on my Instagram Stories (I talk about books every Tuesday!) that the only downfall of this on audio is that I wasn’t able to stop and write down Lamott’s words of wisdom. I think it's clear by now that I'm not an auditory learner! To me this didn’t read like a memoir, and I did read some criticism that it didn’t feel cohesive. I can see where that is coming from, but overall I appreciated her thoughts and honesty on grace, love, and forgiveness. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo} I know I’m not alone in picking up this book after watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix series. I’m actually really glad I waited to read this until after I watched, because I think she would have come off as overbearing and inflexible. Instead, after seeing her warm personality on the show, her tone felt enthusiastic and I sensed her commitment to her methods. I haven’t yet drank the entire pitcher of Kool-aid, but I did KonMari my clothes, as well as Jona and Violet’s, and I am LOVING the results. In my opinion, if you enjoyed Kondo’s Netflix show and are interested in trying her method, you should pick this book up. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy by Edward Hallowell} I read this for my two-person book club, and we still haven’t had a chance to meet and talk about it. I’m not sure I’ll have too much to say. I liked this book, but I didn’t find it particularly ground-breaking in the way I found Siblings Without Rivalry or How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen that I read last year. He did share some practical tips and ideas, although I have to say that I no longer remember what his actual five steps are… (I did finish this one at the beginning of February, if that’s any excuse.) My rating: 3/5 stars.

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy

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