Reading wrap-ups are a new thing to me. I haven’t done a reading wrap-up before this month, but I always enjoy reading everyone else’s. Plus, even though I keep track of my reading on Goodreads, this may help motivate me towards my 2018 reading goal of 50 books! Based on how this month went, I think I may need to modify that goal in the upwards direction.
I don’t do monthly TBRs because I’m ridiculously spontaneous when it comes to picking which books to read next. Sometimes it takes me three or four tries to settle on one book versus another. So my monthly wrap-ups should be as much of a surprise to my readers as they are to me!
My ratings are on a five-star scale with one being the worst and five being the best.
⭐️: Basically this means I didn’t finish it
⭐️⭐️: I finished it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others
⭐️⭐️⭐️: It was ok and I would consider recommending it to others under certain circumstances
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to others
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: I loved it and it has become a favorite book, or at least one I think everyone should read. I would consider reading it more than once.
Since I somehow managed to read 13 books in January, I’ve split this wrap-up into two posts. To read part one, check it out here!
Author: Don Piper with Cecil Murphey
Genre: Christian, memoir, medical
On January 18, 1989, Don Piper was killed in a car accident after his car was run over and crushed by an 18-wheeler. His body was mangled nearly beyond recognition. He was declared dead by multiple first responders. Ninety minutes later, a pastor passing the scene of the accident felt moved to pray for the dead man, despite being discouraged by paramedics who assured him the man had died instantly. Miraculously, as the pastor climbed into the wrecked car and prayed with his hand on Don’s shoulder, Don came back to life. This is the story of Don’s years of painful recovery and the miracles that saved him. But it wasn’t until several years after the accident that he revealed to his friend that when he had died, he had spent 90 minutes in Heaven. This was a moving, beautiful memoir that moved me to tears.
Author: Jerome Groopman
Genre: Memoir, medical
This is a very moving book that I think everyone should read. Dr. Groopman is a physician, author, and researcher who specializes in cancers and HIV/AIDS. Several of the eight patients he focuses on in this book were early AIDS patients. While this isn’t what I would necessarily called a faith-based book, Dr. Groopman recognized that some things can still be learned from the lives of those who no longer can take anything for granted. And in these circumstances, both patient and physician learned from each other. One quote hit me in the gut, as Dr. Groopman was discussing HIV treatment with a young female patient of his in 1995. The wise doctor said, “I can see a time when HIV becomes a chronic controlled condition, like diabetes, rather than a progressive downhill disease. Taking anti-HIV drugs will be like a diabetic taking insulin. When will this happen? I can’t say exactly when, but I believe it will. I don’t agree with you. HIV does not have to be a death sentence, not for people like you.” And you know what? He was right.
Title: As Bright As Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: Historical fiction
I wanted to love this book so much. I was especially excited to see it set partly during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, as I feel this is a time period rich in history that many writers ignore. However, for me, this book was not well executed. I found the characters vapid and undeveloped. I obviously took into account the fact that they were children for a good portion of the book. At least the voices were well done in the sense that the girls truly came across as their stated ages. That can be difficult for an adult writer to pull off, but Susan Meissner succeeded in doing this well. But overall, I felt there was very little character development, especially for a main adult character. The ending seemed far too contrived and convenient given the losses endured during the rest of the book. When their situations turned out in an almost unbelievably fairytale manner, the book really lost my respect. I can’t reveal more without revealing spoilers, but if anyone who gets to the end really thinks about how the endings play out, I think you will see what I’m saying. I think the book would have been much more powerful had the ending been realistic.
Title: The Heart’s Invisible Furies
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Literary/Historical fiction
Book of the Month’s 2017 Book of the Year. Few books make me actually cry, but this one did. It is the story of Cyril Avery (not a real Avery, mind you) born to an unwed Catholic teenager in Ireland in August 1945. Violently cast out by the Catholic Church in her tiny hometown of Goleen, Catherine Goggin makes her own way in Dublin, but gives her baby boy up for adoption. The story follows the boy throughout his life in seven-year increments up to 2015. Cyril realizes he is attracted to boys from a young age. As he grows up, the reader is witness to the terrible secrets that must be kept in order to protect himself, as well as the infuriating violence inflicted upon homosexuals in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic. More than just a book about the coming-of-age of a gay man in postwar Ireland, this is a story that will make you laugh uproariously, but also cry as people come to understand what redemption and happiness really mean.
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Genre: Literary fiction
Book of the Month’s 2016 Book of the Year. This was a hard book to read. I was drawn in and yet horrified and disgusted at the same time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. From working where I have, I have seen social situations that children find themselves in that rival the ones in this book: parents running a meth lab, kids neglected, parents in prison, etc. As horrible as it is, this stuff happens. But the sexual relationship between the 13-year-old daughter of the drug lords and the 24-year-old kind-hearted thug of the drug lords took things a bit far. I understand why it happened. He took care of her when she was too young to fend for herself when her parents were passed out drunk or high or both. He made sure she had enough to eat, got her to school, made sure she was living in sanitary conditions, all those things. Naturally, at such a young age, she fell in love with him. But he eventually fell in love with her, too. Again, not the first time anything like that has ever happened. But reading about it in explicit detail wasn’t really my cup of tea. This is an important book for its truthfulness, but you have to be prepared for the sordid details before you pick it up.
So that’s it for January! Come back in a month for February’s reading wrap-up!
Have you read any of these? What did you think?