On My Bookshelf {April & May 2012}

reading
source: Mo Riza

Can I be honest? I’m in a bit of a reading slump. I’ve read so many really, really good books over the past year, both fiction — The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, Graceling, Yellow Crocus — and non-fiction — Grace for the Good Girl, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, In Defense of Food— that I find myself almost intolerant of anything less than awesome.

While I used to devour anything and everything I found free for the Kindle, now most of them just sit unread. And I haven’t really even been starting any new books because I’m tired of being disappointed.

That said, my list of books read over the past two months is still pretty long, and there are actually three books I picked up on sale and read last month that aren’t on this list because I can’t remember their titles, so I guess I’m not doing too bad!

Note: I’ve shared my thoughts about most of these books below, but a few of them were just…meh. They were good, light reading but not something I need to rave about, so I’ve simply shared the Amazon description of those with you.

Dystopian

I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about dystopian fiction lately, mostly related to the negative themes that are inherent in any dystopian novel. But what I love about them is the strength that the heroes and heroines show in the face of a world gone terribly wrong. I often wonder if I would have stood up against slavery if I’d been born on a Southern plantation in pre-Civil War America, and I love reading the stories of characters who do stand up against the things that are considered normal, or even good, by the rest of their society.

That said, there are definitely great books and okay books, and while I loved both The Hunger Games, The Giver and Divergent, I haven’t been as enthralled with any of the others I’ve read.

  • Birthmarked (Birthmarked Trilogy) by Caragh M. O’Brien
    I had really high hopes for this story. I loved the premise and even though I hadn’t read any reviews of it from anyone I actually know (in real life or on the internet), I was really intrigued by the description: “It’s been 300 years since Lake Michigan became Unlake Michigan; the “cool age” is only hazily known to residents of Wharfton, a small village that sits alongside the walled city of the Enclave. Gaia is 16 and works in Western Sector Three with her mother delivering babies, “advancing” the first three per month to live a better life inside the city. It’s a wrenching routine Gaia doesn’t question until her parents are mysteriously arrested by Enclave authorities.” I’m not sure the story quite lived up to my hopes, though. Unlike some of the other young adult fiction I’ve read, this one felt like it was written for a younger crowd, and the story was not quite as fleshed out as it could have been. I haven’t yet bought the second book in the trilogy (which has pretty sketchy reviews itself), and I’m not sure I will.
  • Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy) by Veronica Roth
    Although not quite as gripping as the first book in the trilogy, which I read in one very late night, Insurgent was a great follow up to Divergent. My favorite part of this book was the very real relationship struggles that the main characters — Tris and Tobias — experience through much of the book, and yet they don’t walk away from their relationship or tie them up in a neat little package. It felt very authentic and realistic, something that’s often, sadly, missing from fiction!
  • Prison Nation by Jenni Merritt
    “In the Nation, no one is innocent – not even the children born behind bars. Millie 942B has spent her entire life locked away with her criminal parents and countless other inmates. She believes in the Nation, in its strict laws and harsh punishments. But when Millie is released on her eighteenth birthday, she finds things are nothing as she was taught. People vanish, never to be seen again. Lies cover every word. Trust is as fragile as ice. And then there is Reed. Born and raised outside the Prison walls, his dreams and thoughts cause Millie to doubt everything she has ever believed. What is truly worth fighting for? If she pushes too hard, she could lose her freedom. If she stays silent, she could lose herself. The clock is ticking, and Millie must find the truth before it is too late.”

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction was my first love, but I’ve become a bit discouraged by the amount of fluff I’ve come across recently. I want detailed historical fiction that takes me to another time and place and gives me historically accurate information about the place and time…that’s the stuff I love!

  • A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson
    Tracie Peterson is probably my all-time favorite historical fiction author (save for Janette Oke, whose books I read at 11 and 12 years old and still have as part of our home library), but this book felt a little frivolous, even though — true to Tracie Peterson’s style — it really delved into some of the issues facing society in the late nineteenth century. In fairness, that may be, at least in part, because this was one of her earlier books…although I’ve read and enjoyed some that were written even earlier in her writing career.
  • A Heart Divided (Heart of the Rockies)by Kathleen Morgan
    “It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery–they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them? Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness.”
  • All Different Kinds Of Free by Jessica McCann
    This heart-wrenching novel tells the true story of Margaret Morgan, born free in the early 1800s and then kidnapped (along with her children) and sold into slavery in 1837. With vivid descriptions of both beauty and heartache, this book worked its way into my soul, and — much like Yellow Crocus — painted another picture of the injustice that black people have faced in our country.  It’s hard to love a book about such a horrible story, but I thought this was an amazingly well written story that didn’t gloss over the terror and pain that Margaret and her family faced.
  • Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
    It was refreshing to read a historical novel that certainly included a love story but did not revolve around that story. I read this book while on vacation and I really enjoyed the look back at the sinking of the Titanic and the World War in the years that followed. It’s a story of brotherly love and sacrifice as well as strength and overcoming the odds.

Non-Fiction

  • In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
    Never has a book had so many subtitles as this one: “an eater’s manifesto”, “the myth of nutrition and the pleasures of eating”, and “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Despite the abundance of subtitles, Michael Pollan’s message really is simple: we’ve screwed up the food culture in America by focusing on individual nutrients and trying to “manufacture” the perfect food, and we really need to get back to viewing food as more than the sum of its nutrients and as a valuable tool for connecting and building relationships. I enjoyed both the history lesson on “nutritionism” in America and the encouragement to view food as more than just fuel for our bodies.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
    This one has been on my to-read list for years, and I finally picked it up at Amazon a few weeks ago. Lynne Truss takes a cheeky and spirited approach to one of my most favorite topics — punctuation and its misuse. I’m actually only a few chapters in, but it’s a light read, and I’m enjoying trying to spot the mistakes in her examples of poor punctuation before she explains them.
  • Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
    Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers and problogger, released his latest book — Platform — last week with an amazing offer for early purchasers. With the purchase of the book, I also received the Kindle and audio editions plus several valuable bonuses. I actually started out listening to the audiobook but decided I want to be able to read the words and underline/highlight them, so I set it aside until next week when I can do that. As I work on my second ebook (which I can’t wait to tell you about because it’s going to be awesome), I’m anxious to read more of his strategies for building a platform and launching a successful product. The stuff I’ve heard so far — in the first few chapters and some of the bonus interviews that came with my purchase — have me excited to read more.

I often get asked how I have time to read so much, so I shared my top strategies in the busy mom’s guide to finding time to read.

I’ve got quite a few projects in the works this summer, so my personal reading time is taking a backseat while I focus on those, and I’m hoping to put together a reading list for the fall that I can get excited about!

If you just want to read more and aren’t especially particular about what you read, one of my favorite sources for reading material is Amazon’s free Kindle books, which really allowed me to restart my reading habit without investing a lot of money in books. I’ve “purchased” more than 1,000 books for free over the last two years, and I’ve discovered more than a few authors and series that I love. Although I prefer to read on my Kindle Fire — Amazon offers free Kindle apps for your PC, Mac, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or Windows 7 phone as well!

What great books have you read recently? What’s on your reading list for this summer?

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