I shared with you my Summer Reading List and now that June is almost over, here are reviews of the four books I read this month.
- Author: Paul Kalanithi
- Length: 256 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 12, 2016)
For the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, I chose this for the “book that intimidates you” category. My husband has already battled cancer and I just found out my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally strong enough to read a book about a man that dies of cancer but I added it to the list despite my reservations.
The intro on Amazon said, “At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.” I remembered Paul’s story in the news last year and it hit close to home. I wanted to hear what Paul had to say about his journey.
Reading Paul’s words helped me to understand about him as a man and doctor. He was more than a man of science but had a heart for literature and writing. He thought it was important to to develop “human relationality” with his patients, to see them as a whole person and not just their medical ailments.
In the middle of the book Paul shared a lot about his medical practice and the patients he treated and it helped to give insight to his mind and work ethic. It was heartbreaking to “watch” as the cancer spread and his life plans were drastically altered, particularly when his daughter was born as he approached his last year of life. Yet, Paul was able to find a balance in his attitude, never being overly optimistic nor morosely depressed about about his imminent death. Instead, there was a quiet strength that drove him to face his death and live his days as best as he could. He said,
“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own morality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
The novel was moving and had me shedding a few tears but by the last chapter, which was written by his wife, I was full on sobbing. Knowing that Paul could no longer write and hearing about his last days on earth were both heart rending and uplifting. Here was a man that did not try to escape his death. He did not see the need to hasten it nor prolong it. He faced the natural end of his life with dignity and courage. In doing so he dispelled a small bit of fear we all have at the prospect of our own death.
His courage in death inspired me to be a little more brave in life. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. (Parental note: The book contains brief language and the topic of cancer and death.)
- Author: Kristin Hannah
- Length: 440 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; 1st edition (February 3, 2015)
I read a number of great reviews about this book and decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did! The book was amazing and so far it is my favorite book that I’ve read this year.
The story takes place in France, 1939 and revolves around the lives of two estranged sisters. The sensible Vianne was married with a young daughter. The younger Isabelle was spirited and sometimes reckless. The story goes back and forth between both their point of views as they dealt with the outbreak of the war. Vianne’s husband went off to war and in his place A Nazi soldier was billeted in her home. Isabelle could not remain idle and joined the Resistance in hopes to make a difference in the war.
The historical aspect of the story was fascinating, particularly from a woman’s point of view, but just as strong was the complicated emotional relationship between the sisters as they dealt with childhood tragedies as well as the growing tragedies of the war. I thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner and by the last chapters I was sitting up into the wee hours of the night to finish the book. I rate it a hearty 5 out of 5 stars. (Parental note: The book contains adult situations, themes of war and some language.)
- Author: Monica Wood
- Length: 336 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (April 5, 2016)
This book definitely didn’t seem like a book I would be interested in but Modern Mrs. Darcy chose it as one of her 5 books in her Summer Reading Club and recommend it in her 2016 Reading Guide under the “Engrossing Books” category so I thought I’d give it a try and I am glad I did.
The story revolved around a young (and I suspect autistic) boy who was obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. The boy was charged with helping a 104-year old woman named Ona on Saturdays. Together they developed a special relationship. However, when the boy unexpectedly dies (early in the story) his estranged father fills in for him and helps out Ona. Although the boy was gone, his life continued to touch the lives of those around him and they came to peace with their own demons and hurts of the past.
The story was interesting and unlike any other book I’ve read. It lagged a little in the middle but picked up again and by the last chapter I was captivated to find out how it would end. I was listening to the book on Audible on our drive up to Lake Tahoe and Brian looked over to me and asked, “Are you crying??” I dabbed my eyes and confessed that I was because the ending was so beautiful. (Why does this surprise him? I tear up at Hallmark commercials.) 😉 It was an enjoyable read and I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental note: Some language.)
- Author: Rachel Anderson
- Length: 244 pages
- Publisher: HEA Publishing (December 15, 2014)
After these heavier books, I needed something lighthearted to breeze through and have fun. Since Rachel Anderson is one of my favorite (clean) romance authors, I wanted to read one of her books. I had already read When Prejudice Meets Pride, which I enjoyed, so I decided to read the second in the series – Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined.
The main characters are Noah, a handsome widower with two daughters and Cassie, a young widower. Cassie’s deceased husband was abusive and she slowly lost her true self as she lived her life to please her demanding husband. Now that he was gone, the last thing she wanted to do was get involved with another man. She had finally tasted freedom to be her own person. Noah, thought Cassie was attractive but a little stuck up and our of his league. However, a mutual friend believed they would be good for each other and able to help each other grow and heal so she does all she can to bring them together. When they do, they learn about themselves as well as each other.
This was a pleasing book. If you enjoy Hallmark love stories (which I do) then you’d probably enjoy this. The content is clean and sweet. If I were to rate this book comparing it to all the books I’ve read, it would be a 3 out of 4 stars but comparing it to the romance books I’ve read, it would be 4 out of 5 stars. 🙂
That’s it for now. What have you been reading?
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