Ella Minnow Pea (Mark Dunn)

This is one of the best fiction books I’ve read in a while. It was just so clever, and I could not put it down!

Title – Ella Minnow Pea: a novel in letters

Author – Mark Dunn

Page count – 208

Rating – Buy. I will definitely read this again and anticipate recommending it frequently.

Ella Minnow Pea is a teenager living on the fictional island of Nollop, just off the coast of South Carolina. The island is named after Nevin Nollop, the (again, fictional) creator of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (This sentence is a pangram, meaning it uses all the letters of the alphabet at least once.) This sentence is spelled out in tiles on a statue of Nollop, but as the tiles suddenly start to fall off, the islanders are forbidden to write or speak using those fallen letters. The book is written as a series of letters/notes between the inhabitants of the island, including Ella. As more letters fall from the statue, the letter-writers have to get creative with how they communicate to avoid using the forbidden letters.

A quick thought: Sometimes I find the use of long or complex words in a story as the author just wanting to sound smart. I didn’t get that vibe here. The characters simply seem to appreciate selecting exactly the right word to express what they mean. And it helps to highly the change in language as certain letters become forbidden.

**Some SPOILERS ahead for minor plot points, but I won’t give away anything major or the ending. You should experience that fresh for yourself** Continue reading “Ella Minnow Pea (Mark Dunn)”

Silas Marner (George Eliot)

This was a pleasant little book. It’s not one that makes me excited to write a lengthy review or wish I could delve into writing an academic essay. But it was a lovely use of my time, and I think I want to read it again at some point. It reminds me of Pride & Prejudice in that way – I wasn’t too excited for that one either when I first read it, but additional readings have led me to appreciate it more.

Title – Silas Marner

Author – George Eliot

Page count – 185

Rating – Borrow

Silas Marner is a spinner and weaver. As someone who came from another town and – except for his yarn and linen deliveries – keeps mostly to himself, he is regarded by the country folk as a “miserly recluse.” Continue reading “Silas Marner (George Eliot)”

Waiting to Exhale (Terry McMillan)

This is what I’d consider a good “beach read.” I tried not to analyze it too much because I was so drained from my last book – which was interesting but, let’s be honest, a bit pretentious. This one was an easy, fun read about female friendships, love, sex, and how to navigate (in both healthy and not-so-healthy ways) the frustrations of romance and men. Keep in mind that it was published in 1992 so there are some truly funny dated pop culture and technology references.

Title – Waiting to Exhale

Author – Terry McMillan

Page count – 409

Rating – Borrow

This book weaves together the stories of four black women in their mid-thirties living in Phoenix: Continue reading “Waiting to Exhale (Terry McMillan)”

The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

I have never been so happy to be done with a book! It’s unfortunate because so many people (including the one who recommended it to me) have said it’s their favorite book. But by the end, I couldn’t enjoy the writing and story anymore. I was at a point where I was forcing myself to press on just so I could finish the darned thing. It’s not a terrible story – there were sections that certainly kept my attention – but this is one of those books that’s definitely not for everyone.

Title – The Count of Monte Cristo

Author – Alexandre Dumas

Page count – 1065 (nope, that’s not a typo)

Rating – It’s weird to publicly rate books that people have recommended for you. I hate to say it, but unless you’re looking for a very specific challenge…Bypass.

In a nutshell, this book is about a man who is wrongly imprisoned but escapes to exact revenge. Continue reading “The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)”

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)

It seems cliché or exaggerated, but I can’t think of a book that’s ever affected me this deeply. I’ve had emotional reactions to books before, but this was different. Several times I had to put the book down because I couldn’t stop crying. It felt so visceral I almost couldn’t breathe. If this wasn’t a library book, I might have actually thrown it across the room. The more I learn about America’s criminal justice system, the more baffled and frustrated and angry I become at how we* can fail people in such spectacular and cruel ways.

(*I almost put “it” here, but the point of this book is about recognizing humanity. When we pretend like we aren’t complicit in the system’s failings, we absolve ourselves of responsibility to change.)

Title – Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption

Author – Bryan Stevenson

Page count – 314

Rating – Buy. No question. This would be a great book to use for a discussion group, especially at church (Although, while his faith background clearly informs his worldview, it’s not the main point of this story – this is a lesson for anyone and everyone). Continue reading “Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)

If I hadn’t read the back cover, I wouldn’t have realized this book is autobiographical. She writes with such humor and feeling that you forget these things really happened to her. You want to root for her, even – or maybe especially – when life makes it seem like she’s a bird trapped in a cage with no way to escape.

Title – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author – Maya Angelou

Page count – 290

Rating – Borrow, although I bought mine at a used book store and will probably keep it because I need to read it at least one more time.

CW: rape/sexual assault. If reading a rape scene could trigger flashbacks for you, make sure you’re in the right mental space before reading this book. Continue reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)”

The Aromatherapy Garden (Kathi Keville)

I enjoyed this book more than the last one I read about aromatherapy. It was published much more recently (2016 vs 1995) so the information and studies referenced are more up-to-date. And the author is clearer about what information is anecdotal and what came from a research-based scientific study. Not that personal experience isn’t valid, but it’s important to understand and clarify the difference, especially when it comes to putting foreign substances into your body.

Title – The Aromatherapy Garden: Growing fragrant plants for happiness and well-being

Author – Kathi Keville

Page count – 257

Rating – Borrow to see if it interests you. I’ll probably buy a copy at some point because I enjoy structuring my garden designs around fragrant plants and want to reference some of her ideas. Continue reading “The Aromatherapy Garden (Kathi Keville)”