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Welp. I am so behind on posting my book reviews, I’ve decided to do a quick update to cover both January and February reads. I’m changing up my format too, grouping like ratings together, beginning with 5-star and progressing to 3.5-stars.
There were a couple of books I started but didn’t finish, so I’m not including those.
From the lighthearted and magical to deep and heart-wrenching, I believe you will find a five-star read here too.
How the Penguins Saved Veronica
by: Hazel Prior
Who doesn’t want to save the penguins? Everyone (I hope!), including curmudgeonly octogenarian, Veronica McCreedy, who decides to bequeath her large fortune to the scientific study of penguins. Penguins need her help, what with global warming and loss of habitat. (Besides, what else will she do with her $$$? The only family she has is an estranged grandson she only just met.)
BUT, before making such a huge decision, she heads to the Antarctic to check things out for herself.
In this charming, feel-good tale, the reader is reminded that a change of scenery can be a powerful thing. Yes, even the grumpiest protagonist can experience a change of heart and make a positive difference in the world.
I listened to the Audible version of How the Penguins Saved Veronica and the various narrators were A+.
Favorite Quote: Life is a careful balance of what you let out and what you hold in.
by: Barbara Kingsolver
Oh man. This story is intense, raw, heartbreaking, and filled with phrases and dialog that had me laughing out loud and cringing. That’s how real it felt. A homage to Dickens’ David Copperhead, the story provides commentary on abject poverty, drug use, and the foster care system. It’s both highly entertaining and incredibly depressing. Demon Copperhead (which is the nickname of the protagonist) is fiction, however the story’s truth is everywhere.
Favorite Quote: The wonder is that you could start life with nothing, end with nothing, and lose so much in between.
by: Jess Redman
Middle School Young Reader
Since his infant sister died, 11-year-old Wunder Ellis no longer believes in miracles. His once joyous family has become completely grief-stricken, living in a fog. Then Wunder meets Faye, a quirky, outspoken, cape-wearing classmate, and together, they set out to discover the root of grief.
With a cemetery and a dilapidated house and a possible witch, The Miraculous is chockfull of mystery and childhood shenanigans. The book is classified for middle school readers, but we all know a good story works for readers of all ages.
A beautiful reminder that grieving is part of the miracle of life. Thank you to author Anne Marie Bennett for gifting me this gem.
Favorite Quote: But sometimes the brightest miracles are hidden in the darkest moments.
The House of Eve
by: Sadeqa Johnson
African American Literature
I’m not a huge fan of dual-perspective narratives, but this one worked well for me—the two African American protagonists are very distinctive. Ruby Pearsoll is a smart, driven teenager on track to be the first to attend college in her family. Eleanor Quarles is a Howard University student who falls in love with a handsome medical student. Both protagonists are from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ because they aren’t from wealthy black families. Their stories build to an intersection that is somewhat predictable but satisfactory nonetheless. (And, I was surprised by the twist at the very end.)
The House of Eve is an engrossing story of what it was like to be a black woman and mother in the 1950s, before Roe v. Wade. Enlightening and timely.
Favorite Quote: Knowing about racism and being abused by its wrath were two different things.
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time and Other Explosives
by: Mary Laura Philpott
I devoured Bomb Shelter while traveling to and from NWArkansas to Austin via DFW. A good book certainly makes time spent in an airplane pass quickly. These stories are heartfelt, often about ordinary life topics that touch on the extraordinary.
For me, the author’s essays brought back a flood of pre-empty-nest feelings I experienced not all that long ago as I prepared for my own first born to head off to college. And oh what irony! As I was traveling to visit my first born (now thirty-something), I was so clearly reminded of those post high school graduation years that my momma-heart hitched all over again.
A lovely reminder of the beauty and angst of parenthood at every stage.
Favorite Quote: Sometimes I wonder if I’m such a worrier because the tough outer shell around the softness of my soul never hardened all the way up.
The Uncommon Reader: a Novella
by: Alan Bennett
Charming fictional story about Queen Elizabeth and her sudden love of books and reading. This comes about when she accidentally discovers a mobile library. Very short, this a novella reads almost like a fable. It gives the reader a glimpse into a more human side of someone with an uncommon position in society.
Favorite Quote: You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.
Here and Now and Then
by: Mike Chen
I don’t often read time-travel books even though the topic intrigues me. And because I don’t often read this particular genre, I can’t compare Here and Now and Then to others (not that we should necessarily compare books). Having said all this, I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced, well-written story.
Kin is a time traveler secret agent who gets trapped in the 1990s for 18 years, eventually returns to his life in 2142, and then can’t forget Miranda, the daughter he left behind. I mean, having two lives in two centuries would be a tricky thing, right? When he works out how to communicate with her, things get interesting. Kin is breaking all sorts of secret agent rules.
How far will he go to save his daughter from her future?
I loved all the technical details the author included—it was just enough to make the story real, the features of time travel understandable. The reader catches a glimpse of life in 2142 that seems real too, almost as though the author has been there…
Favorite Quote: We’re all different people all through our lives, but that’s okay, as long as you remember all the people you used to be.
by: Jessica George
A compelling debut novel that is probably more suited to a younger audience; however, even at my ripe old age, I related to much about the story—esp. caring for aging parents and early-career work angst. I would call it YA, although there is lots of sex. The insight into Ghana culture = eyeopening. Many of the characters were unlikeable, which made rooting for the main character, Maddie, all the easier.
Favorite Quote: We grow up fast. Not by force, but because we are needed.
I hope your winter reading has been filled with great stories! What has been your favorite read so far this year?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.