Friday, September 13, 2019

Read Alikes: Part 1

I just finished Little Fires Everywhere the other night.  I sat at my son's soccer practice with a tear in my eye considering what the book said to me.  Pulling back from the story for a minute I could immediately see the overarching theme of motherhood.  How hard it is, how the past influences our choices with our children today, how we all think we are doing the right thing.  It made me think about other books I had read with similar ideas...

When I finished A Curious Beginning last month I had the same feeling.  I closed the book and began to think of the other books and series I have read that were reminiscent of the tone, motifs, and plot.  A few sprang immediately to mind.

Both of these experiences had me itching to write this post.  It may become a series of posts or it may be a one-off, but either way, here some read alikes I've noticed in my adventures with books.

Little Fires Everywhere   I finished this (at the soccer field) and was impressed with the way Ng dealt with motherhood in all its complexities and nuances.  At the core of the book are mothers and daughters who are trying to communicate and finding varying degrees of success.  As a mom of teen daughters, this is v. relatable and also something that does not get talked about much.  So that got me thinking about other books that I've read like this...

You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation is a nonfiction book about a researcher who studied patterns in conversations between moms and daughters.  She has a whole section dedicated to communication during the teen years.  I found this highly informative and still use some of the tips, tricks, and understanding I got from this book. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette I had a different reaction to this book than most readers.  It made me cry a little.  I mean, I wasn't weeping, but seeing Bernadette go through the crises of sending her daughter away to school and wondering who she is now that she is not "Bee's mother" hit close to home for me.  I have a few years to go before I'm an empty nester and the idea that society expects moms to be a super mom while their kids are at home leaves me feeling like I want to scream, "There is more to me than my kids!" How many times have I met someone at a dance recital or band concert and introduced myself as "Finn's mom"?  The book doesn't offer answers but reminds you that you are not alone in your love for your child and your need for creative expression.  Bernadette is one of my favorites. 

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a nonfiction look at a mother's experience raising kids with the goal of excellence.  The author lets you inside of the good, the bad, and the ugly of her experience and when I finished I found I was more compassionate to myself and other moms. 

Ginny Moon  I love this book.  It is about a teen is in the foster care system.  She goes to live with a family who wants to adopt her.  Ginny is often torn between her biological mom and her foster parents and the reader gets a very raw portrayal of what it means to be a family.  Communication issues are worsened for Ginny and those around her because she has Autism.  It is so good...and by good I mean, yes, I did cry. 

A Curious Beginning  This was another book that made me think about other books I've read (and loved) like it.  It's the late 1800's and Veronica Speedwell is alone in life.  She loves hunting butterflies and adventuring and it's a good thing because she's about to be swept up in a big adventure to learn about her family of origin and why her aunts made her move from town to town.  This is a fun, historical, mysterious book.  If you're looking for deeply researched historical ficition you might not like it, if you are looking for a thriller you might not like it.  Books like this make me so happy...I wish there were more TV shows in this vein too (Psych is the best I can think of). 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an obvious comp.  This is also a fun, historical, mysterious series that involves a heroine with an unlikely interest (chemistry).  In Bradley's books, Flavia is running around town solving murders and getting into trouble while dealing with family issues.  I have read all of them and love them dearly. 

Caraval is not an obvious comp.  It's totally fantasy: they live in a magical world.  But, it has strong female characters, a nice little romance, and mysterious elements to keep you turning the pages.  I've only read the first, but my daughter loves all of the books in the series. 

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges I thought of this nonfiction book as a read-alike because Veronica is so strong and self-assured.  When I read characters like that I feel more confident and brave about my own situation.  This book gives practical tips to stand up to the bad guys (and situations) in everyday life.  The superman pose has come in handy many times around here.

Bellweather Rhapsody  Less fantastical, this book takes place at a musical festival for teens in New York.  I loved the band culture in this creepy mystery that made me laugh and gasp alternately.  I think this may be one of the most underrated books.  I read it years ago and still think about the characters and the setting. 

I'll be Your Blue Sky  Something that links this book is learning about something you didn't know before (band geeks, chemistry, butterflies), in this book you learn about how women escaped domestic abuse in the past when it was even more difficult to get away from your abuser.  It's not a cheery subject, but the story had a lot of hope, a little mystery, and female characters you could root for.'s part of a series.

A Study in Scarlet Women is very similar to the Veronica Speedwell books.  It takes place in England around the same time and Lady Sherlock is a witty young woman who despises convention.  This would be good to dip in and out of while you're waiting for Bradley and Raybourn to write more.

Let me know in comments if you have any read alikes for these books...or if you just finished something really great and you're looking for something similar.  Maybe I can help out!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Reading Recap: August Edition

August should be dubbed "anxiety month" around these parts.  My children and I were all suffering from anxiety about the transition that would come on September 3rd: the beginning of school.  

We wanted to make every moment count so we squeezed as much meaning as we could into every single thing we did together.  A trip to the grocery store became a bonding experience where we discussed consumer skills, popping into the library to return books became a family affair in which I could recount with nostalgia all of the library classes they used to go to when they were babies.  We were pretty annoying and terrible. 

When there was an opportunity for rest, we were frustrated we weren't doing more: "What do you mean that we are just going to hang out here, we should go to the movies or make a craft project or do SOMETHING!"  

For a solid month, my kids lamented the change in their sleep schedules and the necessity of homework.  We toyed with the idea of "practicing" waking up but never actually got around to it.  Earlier bedtimes were often threatened, but we couldn't make ourselves follow through on that.  

Despite our fears, the first day of school went off without a hitch.  Sure we were tired and over-emotional but everyone made it through.  
Usually, it's one or the other...sometimes though, we're all crying. 😢 
Despite the weird vibe around here, I also got some reading done.  Not as much as I would have liked but plenty for a summer month with four kids around me at all times and a ton of mom guilt about "living in the moment."  

Here's what I read:

Lock Every Door

This was good.  I mean, not Pulitzer good, but it was just what I wanted.  At one point I was concerned that the story was going in an unlikely direction, but Sager totally faked me out and ended up scaring me real good.  If you need a thriller that requires just a smidge of suspension of belief and is well written and makes you turn the pages like you're flipping through a magazine...look no further than Riley Sager.  I needed to know how this book resolved and it was completely satisfying (and thought-provoking). 

Glass Houses

Another Gamache because I am so close to catching up in the series.  I thought the mystery plotline was put to the side in this book but I literally didn't care because the character development was ON POINT.

I have one more book to go before I get to the newest in the series.  When I finally catch up, I think I'll probably have a good cry and then go listen to the audiobooks just for fun.  Three Pines is a good influence on my world view. 

Saving Winslow

Sharon Creech has written a few books I've read in the past and enjoyed.  When I saw this one was about a miniature donkey I had to get it.  It was a sweet, seemingly simple story.  You can tell Creech loves kids and animals in the way she writes them.  Winslow isn't likely to make it and a little boy and his friends and family rally around the miniature donkey, showing courage and love despite the unfavorable odds.  If you need a quick read that will restore your faith in humanity and give you a little hope, this would make an excellent choice. 

A Curious Beginning

I started reading this for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club and was totally blindsided.  I looked at the cover and description and rolled my eyes.  Butterflies?  Give me a break.  Well, don't give me a break.  I loved it!  It took me about 20 pages to decide that this would be a great series to read while I'm waiting for more Flavia deLuce books from the beloved Alan Bradley.  It has a similar cheeky tone.  It's not typical historical fiction (Veronica and Flavia would probably be sent to jail for the ways they stand up to the patriarchy), it is highly enjoyable.  

Looking back, it was a month of books that I really enjoyed and wanted to read.  Months like that are what make reading fun.  💕 

What did you read in August?  Link or comment below...