June Book Reviews:
My June reading adventures began in Iceland (literally), where I traveled to Belize (figuratively) in a beat-up, broken down car with a character named Ray Midge. Mid-month, because of my trip to Iceland, I became absorbed in the Mid-West, primarily in a one room schoolhouse in rural Iowa with brief escapades to Venice. And June moved on from there. Arkansas blogger / author Jerusalem Jackson Greer took me inside her head, heart, and home in Little Rock. I visited a Catholic home for unwed mothers and enjoyed a gem of a romp in England with Benedict Stone. Trust me when I say throughout the entire month of June, I spent a ton of time at Monticello with Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. In all, June proved to be a fun and busy month. And because of my book adventures, I hope you’ll add a few more volumes to your summer reading list.
Dog of the South
by Charles Portis
I’m a fangirl of Arkansas author, Charles Portis, who in my opinion is a true southern treasure. He’s probably best known for True Grit, but his other works are just as spot-on irresistible and loaded with bone dry, odd-ball humor, the sort I tend to appreciate. Reading his work is like talking with a favorite crusty old uncle. Know what I mean? Dog of the South is the tale of a man who heads to Central America to fetch his wife, her first-husband (who has skipped out on bail), his Gran Torino and shotgun. Funny stuff filled with religious zealots, natural born losers, and other bizarre yet all too familiar crackpots.
This Book Made Me: Laugh Out Loud manymanymany times.
Favorite Line(s): “Norma had run off with Guy Dupree and I was waiting around for the credit card billings to come in so I could see where they had gone.”
Patron Saint of Liars
by Ann Patchett
What a great example of how strong protagonists don’t have to be likable to be effective. One thing a bit different in the storytelling and structure—the book is divided into three parts with a different narrator for each section. I found this to be jarring at first, but soon found the various viewpoints strong and felt empathy for each narrator. The plot involves a woman who leaves her husband when she discovers she is pregnant. She disappears into a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky, “a state whose capital I did not know…where no one would look for me” and raises her child there shrouded in lies.
This Book Made Me: melancholy, and intrigued not only by the story but by the writing. I mean, Ann Patchett.
Favorite Line: “She was not one to set her teeth so far into something that she couldn’t let go when presented with the truth.”
by Marc Niesen
If books were celebrated simply because of beautiful writing, Schoolhouse would be enjoying a stellar view from the top of the charts. I feel certain of it. I met author, Marc Niesen, last month in Siglufjörður, Iceland. Upon hearing Niesen read only a few lines, I was hooked. And my first impression was correct. Niesen has written is a poignant love story, a story of self-discovery and peace and strength, the story of man interacting with and learning life lessons from nature, our greatest teacher. Schoolhouse reminded me of one of my favorite books, Gift of the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It’s that beautiful, that haunting, that good. Schoolhouse is the story of his year spent living in an old, one room schoolhouse in Iowa while working toward a writing degree and struggling to get over a May-December romance. This book includes all the things I enjoy—writing that sings, nature, journey, reflection. And I especially like the way the chapters are divided into school lessons such as Spelling, Reading, Anatomy, etc.
This Book Made Me: think I should be more observant of my surroundings. And, I’ll NEVER again look at Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland statue the same way.
Favorite Line: “I’ve come to think we all experience one love that stays with us, at least one impassioned relationship that, for better or worse, upends us.”
America’s First Daughter
by Stephanie Dray
It took me the better part of June to make my way through the audio version of this historical novel. It is LONG. I knew nothing about Martha Jefferson Randolph, and I enjoyed the history behind it. The story is based on thousands of letters written by Thomas Jefferson. The author did take liberties in areas of relationship and timeline, and she fully discloses this. Above all else, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter was portrayed as extremely loyal to her father. And she was a strong, behind-the-scenes power in the development of our young country. If you enjoy sinking your teeth into historical fiction with a little romance thrown in, you’ll like this one. But as I said, it is LONG. The paperback is over 700 pages; the audio over 23 hours. I suppose it’s difficult to condense such a life, such a story.
This Book Made Me: once again, soooooo thankful to be a woman with a voice rather than chattel for a man.
Favorite Line: “The less occupation we have, the less we’re disposed to do.”
At Home in This Life
by Jerusalem Jackson Greer
This book—classified Christian, Home, Hobby—is not the sort of book I typically read, and I suspect I enjoyed it in part because I do follow Jerusalem’s blog and know her as a fellow member of Arkansas Women Bloggers. I found the story of her all-consuming desire to move to the country and lead a more back-to-the-land type life to be in contrast to what I thought I knew of her. Which is the whole point of the story. Life isn’t a Pinterest board. Jerusalem (that’s her real name) lays it all out, her “beautymess”, heartbreak, disappointment, and test of faith. Her message of “growing where you are planted” is relatable. The design of the book is charming and creative, like the author herself, and includes quotes and scripture along with the occasional craft thrown in. For fans of Christian, self-help, blog type books, you will enjoy this. “This is her story, this is her song.”
This Book Made Me: say “yes!” to taking a nap on Sunday.
Favorite Quote: “I knew it was all a false front. I knew the game I was playing, as would anyone who stared at my bathroom walls long enough.”
Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone
by Phaedra Patrick
Such a quick, whimsical summer read, a charming story of second chances. Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone is a real pick-me-up type story of a man who’s in a major slump—his marriage is on the rocks, his business is as stagnant as stagnant can be, and he overeats to feel better which of course only compounds his problems. But lo and behold, life presents him with the magical change he needs. This book is fun and light-hearted but not saccharine sweet. I love the title and the cover, too! Both highly important in my book selection process.
This Book Made Me: Happy! I’ll be ordering the author’s other book, asap.
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes you think things are all sparkly and lovely but then they tarnish quickly and a bit of polish isn’t enough.”
June’s a wrap, and I’ve moved on to my July reading! These are the days of endless summer reading. What’s on your list?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Van Morrison, These Are the Days