mid-year 2017 book reviews!

I told Sean the other night: "Having a catchy book to read is AWFUL. All I want to do is, you know, read it all the time, to the detriment of the children's upbringing."

I think I have to cut out any of the chick-lit romantic/mystery novels, because I find myself yelling "Yes, turn on another Super Why! Even a Wild Kratts, if you're feeling fancy!" to the minions in the family room as I sink into an armchair with my library tome and an iced coffee. Not good.

1. Orthodoxy - book club
G.K. Chesterton
I'm giving myself brownie points for the fact that a work by Gilbert Keith is my first completed book of the year. Absolutely loved it, proud that I finished it, moderately understood most of it, dramatically underlined lots of it. His perspective on liberalism, fairy tales, materialism and the childlike monotony of God made me think about how every age has its madmen and its lunatics--and yet every age has the hope of a renewal of faith.

2. A Hundred Summers
Beatriz Williams
Seemed to be the book everyone was reading last year. Definite beach read that I finished in a few days (cough cough BY IGNORING THE CHILDREN cough cough). I thought I saw the twist coming in the first few chapters, but no! It surprised me with 20 pages to go til the end. Not a deep twist, true, but good enough to make me gasp. A little on the raunchy side.  

3. The Well - book club
Stephanie Landsem
OH MY. I admit to being a book cover snob who cocked a skeptical eyebrow at historical fiction set in the time of Jesus. But good golly, this book swept me up in an incredible (fictional) account of the woman at the well. Not the most well-written and not the sharpest dialogue, but a fantastic imagining of the harsh realities for women, especially shamed women, in 30-something A.D. Palestine. Riveting and hopeful. Our little book club devoured it.

4. Home Cooking
Laurie Colwin
You win, Mags. :) I added this to my list as soon as my wonderful book worm friend recommended last year, and I'm so glad I did. Possibly the best line (though the competition was fierce): "I'm never on a diet that I cannot be talked out of." Amen.

5. Boys Adrift
Dr. Leonard Sax
Good golly. Should be required reading for anyone raising, teaching, coaching, or otherwise encountering BOYS. Sax begins with a root question: Why do young men today lack ambition and goals--besides those associated with video games? He drills down to five root causes that, in his opinion, have created a generation of slackers. I drove Sean nuts for days, saying "I have to read you just this paragraph" and then would go on for pages. One chapter, though, on plastics and the dangers of water contaminants made me freak out, possibly unnecessarily. But the rest was pure wisdom and great advice from a man who sure sounds like he's done his homework.

6. The Jeweler's Shop - book club
Karol Wojtyla
I am no longer the Catholic poser who everyone just assumes has read The Jeweler's Shop. Ha. Yes, enjoyable. Yes, very different to read a play in book form than to see it performed. But yes, something must be a little lost in translation, right? I don't know. The dialogue felt a bit redundant in spots. But it is uncanny how a never-married Catholic priest (or was he already a bishop when he wrote it? hm) can so insightfully write about marriage, write about women, write about the love of a man and wife and how it changes, grows, fades, and renews itself over time. It's almost as if he were a saint, or something...

7. The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Beatriz Williams
Ok, ok, I've got the Beatriz Williams bug out of my system. Pitted against A Hundred Summers, I'd say I enjoyed Summers over this one. But again, I read it in a few days and remained glued to every page. All in all, I'd call it a shade more graphic than Summers, too, and without good reason. Compellingly written and a fine beach read, for sure, but not one I'd easily recommend.

And that's the list! I need to get through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Thursday for book club, and after that, I was thinking of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Honorable mentions go to every Zita the Spacegirl book, which I read to the boys and we both LOVED. That Ben Hatke, he warrants his own separate post, methinks.

If you've got recommendations, throw 'em my way!


  1. For historical fiction, I would highly recommend A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett (https://www.ignatius.com/Products/PV-P/a-postcard-from-the-volcano.aspx).

    1. Ahh! I've always wanted to read that. Just ordered a copy. Good recommendation, sir!

  2. Oh my gosh! "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is so good! To the point I had to call my mom and just read her a page and it took a good five minutes because I was laughing so hard. Another great one I recently read was "The Awakening of Miss Prim" by Natalia SanmartĂ­n Fenollera. So.Good.

  3. I just used your book reviews to place half the books on hold at the library! ;)