July Book Report: Quick Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading

built in bookshelves in home officeEach month Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy gives quick reviews of what she’s been reading and invites others to do the same and link up with her. Here are the books that have been keeping me up past my bedtime.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This was my book club’s book for June and we all gave it a thumbs up. It’s the story of Molly, a teen in the foster system, who finds herself performing community service by helping an aging woman, Vivian, clean out her attic. Vivian was herself orphaned as a young child in NYC and was placed on a train to the Midwest with other orphans in the hopes that they would find new homes. This was an actual practice in America in the early 20th century, something I knew nothing about. Chapters about Vivian’s experience as a youth alternate with the present day, as Vivian’s and Molly’s lives unfold and an unexpected friendship forms between them.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I am not a fan of horror, so I’ve never read a Stephen King book, but I saw the synopsis of this one and the time-traveling mystery plot intrigued me. The main storyline involves Jake, a high school English teacher in 2011 Maine, who discovers through his friend, Al, a portal that takes you to 1958. Al convinces Jake to go back and take over a mission that Al began: preventing the Kennedy assassination. There are several other storylines in the book, enough to fill several books in fact, which accounts for this book’s length: 880 pages. I felt like I might never finish this book, but I wanted to know what happened and Stephen King’s writing (I see why so many are fans) kept me tapping for the next page on my Kindle. It was excellent. Note: There is some violence, but no horror in this book. I don’t like gore and I was able to handle it just fine.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

You may have heard of Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, or it’s sequel, Happier at Home. I’ve read both of those, but this book on habits, may be my favorite of Gretchen’s books. The book is built on the premise that we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, more productive lives, and I found that idea compelling. Gretchen feels like it’s helpful to know yourself before you try and make and maintain a habit, so she summarizes things like the Four Tendencies (I’m a Questioner) and Abstainers vs. Moderators (I’m not particularly good at either but I lean more Moderator). Insights like this are fun and help you apply the lessons to yourself. A friend loaned me this book, and after I returned it to her I bought my own copy. This is the kind of book you can pick up again and again and learn something new each time.

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

I read everything by Elin Hilderbrand, so I’ve had this book on pre-order for months and, while I had planned to save it for my vacation, I caved and read it sooner. While it’s too strong to say I was disappointed in The Rumor, I can say that it wasn’t one of my favorite of Elin’s books. I loved the premise, but the characters didn’t engage me as much as they usually do and one of the story lines was a bit far-fetched and a little unsavory. Still, it had all the usual Hilderbrand elements I love: strong female characters, stories about relationships, and Nantucket in the summertime. And a less-than-favorite book by Elin Hilderbrand is a like a less than ideal day at the beach. I mean, you’re still at the beach.

What are you reading this summer?

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  1. I haven’t read the Orphan Train, but I do have a connection to it. My great-grandfather was one of those orphans who was sent on a train to a new home when he was about 5 years old. One day I had taken him on an errand and he told me the story of how all he had was a small bag of some kind with his few possessions, plus his little dog, and was waiting at the train station. When it was time to board the train the engineer told him that dogs were not allowed, and Pa said all he could do was watch his dog through the window as the train pulled away. I am not particularly a pet lover, although I cannot remember a time that my family has not had a pet of some kind. However, I bawled while he recounted his story (trying my best to stay in the lane!). The good news is that he did join a wonderful family – all I know about them is that the father was a pastor and their surname was Peters – and they let Pa have a puppy when he joined their family. Pa died in 1988 at the age of 90, about year after he told me this story and a few months after I had my first child – we have a 5 generation picture I’m so proud of! I still recall his story when I pass that area all of these years later, and sometimes get teary-eyed all over again. The book sounds wonderful, but I wonder if it’d hit too close to home.

    1. Oh, Karen, that story is heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. I can see why it affected you the way it did. You’re right…this book might hit too close to home. I am so glad your Pa ended up in a good home.

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