January Book Reviews
I am two weeks late, but better late than never, right? Here are the four books I read in January. My favorite January read was The Help, which I read with my book club gals.
The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers ★★★★☆
This is the story of Agnes Morel, a quiet French woman working in the quant Chartres village as a cleaner in the infamous cathedral as well as odd cleaning jobs for townspeople. A captivating plot with exceptional character development. It would have easily been a 5-star book for me except for two areas: the amount of sexual references and punctuation/grammar errors (or maybe they were on purpose). Words were spelled differently ('flat tyre'), 'single quotation marks' instead of the standard double for all dialogue, and a lack of period after abbreviations for doctor ('Dr Deman...'). I am nerding out here, I know, but they bothering me since the author is a former literature prof. Maybe these were intentional, and if so, why, Salley, why? Be aware: It's not so much of a feel-good novel and deals with some serious themes. Also, a few cuss words.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ★★★★★
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March are sisters and best friends. Their different personalities and hilarious blunders are captured as they grow from young girls to young ladies. Along with the fun stories is also a great amount of wisdom peppered throughout the book from their mother, who they affectionately call Marmee.
I first read this as a teen and recently picked it back up around the holidays. It was been such a treat. I remembered some of the funny stories of their earlier years but this time around, loved Meg's newlywed chapters the most because I felt like Alcott was very honest in some of the struggles of this season. Marmee's advice to her was so good, I found myself bookmarking several spots.
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh ★★☆☆☆ (audiobook)
For fourteen years, Letty has worked around-the-clock while her parents raised her two kids, 15-year old Alex and 6-year old Luna. She liked this set-up and depended on it. Now they've returned to their home in Mexico and she's left to learn how to be a mom to these two kids as they each struggle through different things. Told from the perspective of Letty and Alex in alternating chapters, it dives into themes such as motherhood, illegal immigration, and chasing the American Dream.
First I will say I did enjoy that this book talked about illegal immigration, a topic that is definitely getting more visibility the past year. I also liked the symbolism of birds and wings. What I didn't like: too many risqué scenes and language, not a lot of character development, and the mom annoyed me for most of the story. The plot seemed predictable and I was a bit confused with the ending. I was disappointed since I loved Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers.
The Help by Katherine Scott ★★★★★ (audiobook)
It's 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. Racial tensions are fierce and the divisive. Twenty-three year old Skeeter recently has come home from college and is having a hard time reintegrating to life with her high-school besties, who are now married with children and eagerly trying to "improve" their community through elitist ideals. Aibileen and Minny are two African-American maids who have seen the hardships and terrible reality of segregation and prejudice. Together, these three women come together to shed light on the injustice and hate, while risking their own comfort and safety in the process.
Oh. My. Goodness. I had seen the movie and knew the plot, but the novel still blew me away! The narration on the audiobook was my favorite narration of any audiobook I have ever listened to! (Octavia Spencer, who plays Minny in the movie, narrates her parts). The story itself is filled with humor, heartbreak, and hope. The characters are brought to life through Stockett's deeply moving prose. It was spectacular and it was such an important read for such a time as this, since we still struggle with a lot of the same themes in our nation.
Seinfeldia: How A Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Armstrong
I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
What have YOU been reading? Any recommendations to pass along my way?