What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 7 Quick Book Reviews

Let’s see if I can finish this before the three-year-old wakes from her nap:


1. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge: I keep hearing about Elizabeth Goudge. She has a devoted following.  Her books mostly went out of print but are now back in print.  Sadly, I’m not a fan.  She develops some lovely themes of redemptive suffering and the working of grace, but she has a wordy, sentimental style I’m not fond of.

2. Growing Up With Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism: I really appreciated this first-hand account of growing up with sensory processing disorder and autism/Aspergers.  I’ve read a lot of books on similar topics, so I just skimmed it but I might go back.  I especially liked her accounts of what worked for her (her parents’ tough love mixed with lots of understanding) and what didn’t (a lot in the conventional classroom).

3: Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In- When to Worry and When Not to Worry:  The title is misleading.  It sounds like it’s about kids who are quirky but without a diagnosable condition.  Actually, it focuses mainly on kids who are on the autism spectrum, although it doesn’t completely ignore those who don’t have a diagnosis.  Again, I skimmed because a lot of books on this topic cover the same material.  But the one page on picky eating made the book for me: basically, don’t make a big to-do over your quirky child’s eating preferences, they’ll probably do just fine no matter how self-limited their diet; you have bigger issues to deal with.

4. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig: I keep hearing about Whole 30, and this is the book that started it.  I find the authors’ writing style condescending (“We’ll keep the science-y stuff to a minimum,” . . . because I’m too dumb to understand it??? . . . I hate having my intelligence insulted.)  And yet . . . I found it compelling.  I haven’t done a Whole 30 yet for reasons I won’t go into now, but I’m inclined to try in the near future.  I ate almost-paleo for a few weeks and was surprised at how much I liked it.  Also . . . white potatoes now are allowed!  This makes a world of difference to me.

5. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne: This was fun, easy reading.  Total chick lit.  I got bored with the sequel though.  The premise of the first is just original enough to keep me interested but the second felt formulaic from the get-go.

6. Death Comes to the Archbishop, by Willa Cather: So beautiful.  It’s not really about anyone’s death, it’s about a missionary priest–eventual archbishop’s–life, told in a series of short stories about incidents in his life throughout the years.  I wish I could think of a way to make the topic more interesting–as it is, I never would have picked it up if it hadn’t been chosen for book club–but it’s really beautiful and exciting too.  For those who have read it–I almost think the real protagonist is Fr. Joseph, and not the archbishop.  It’s kind of like Fr Joseph’s story is told through the archbishop’s story.  At least, I found Father Joseph a lot more personally likable and colorful than the archbishop.  What do you think?

7. A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh:  I read this years ago, but just discovered it’s a selection of the month for the Wall Street Journal book club.  I’ll following along because I think Waugh’s writing is brilliant, this book included.  To quote the Wall Street Journal article on it,

What they’re talking about is this end of civilization, or the end of a certain kind of civilization. He’s saying it’s all falling apart. These people are losing whatever heritage they’ve ever had. But there’s a subtext where he’s saying: And didn’t they have it coming? These are frivolous, morally groundless people, who are careless about their privilege, careless about each other and careless about society. And they need some moral underpinning that they don’t now have.

The character’s are ridiculous enough to make you laugh, but their faults are realistic enough to make you cringe.  The ending is just wonderfully over the top.  It’s great satire.


Girl 2 is waking up.  Gotta go.  Click over to Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick take posts and click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more quick lit (she’s finally posting about books she doesn’t like and why she doesn’t).

13 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 7 Quick Book Reviews

  1. I liked The Little Lady Agency too- haven’t read the sequel but wondered where the author would even go with it since the first wrapped up nice and tidy.

  2. Kim John Payne talks about kids and their quirks, too, in Simplicity Parenting. Kids *are* quirky. I’ve never read any Waugh. Fr. Barron talks about him all the time, it seems.

  3. Hey Laura, what’s up? Interesting thing about Cather’s book (that I find many people don’t know) is that it’s really a work of historical fiction (of a very unique kind). It’s not necessary to know this in order to appreciate the novel, because its character development and its atmosphere of “time-and-place” are evocative on their own. But the striking thing is that almost everything in the book is based on the lives of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, founding archbishop of Santa Fe, and his friend Joseph Machebeuf, who went on (just like in the story) to found what is now the archdiocese of Denver. Willa Cather uses the setting of this frontier mission to build a story of a friendship between two very different men and “paint” the physical and human “landscape” of the American Southwest as it first began to exist. I’ve read some of the real history of the French missionary bishops and the southwest, and it has only enriched my appreciation of this remarkable novel and Cather’s literary artistry. Ah, we should talk about this sometime! Willa Cather is still underrated. All her works are good, and in addition to Death Comes to the Abp there are a couple others that are exceptional. 🙂

  4. #6 and #7: gotta add to my to read list. And I felt the same about #4. You can make a book “relatable” without writing in the same style as you compose a Facebook status or blog post. But ultimately, it was very helpful when I did my Whole30. I’m trying to eat more paleo now as a result, however it’s tough because I’m not forcing my whole family on this diet and it’s tiresome to always make separate things. So I’ve greatly reduced the amount of certain foods I eat and I just don’t stress if certain ingredients sometimes work their way into my diet occasionally.

    • I have the same issue w/ preparing different things b/c getting my eldest to eat paleo is a fool’s errand. But I’m often making different food for her anyway. So preparing two separate meals each time is not so different from what we’re doing now. . . . Fortunately my husband is always up for whatever healthy-eating plan I want to try.

  5. The Waugh novel sounds interesting! I’ve only read Brideshead and have been curious about his other books (and have heard they’re not as goo). I will have to check it out!

  6. I really liked Death Comes for the Archbishop too! It’s been a while, now, but one thing I loved was how the scenery is so vividly described. One of the beautiful passages that stuck in my mind then was the one about the old poor bond woman kneeling before the Virgin Mary and how the priest was reflecting on what it meant that there was a Divine Woman in Heaven that knows what we suffer, and how much the old especially need the tenderness of a Kind Woman when the world is so cruel. . . .
    Thanks for your book reviews! I wish I read as much as you!

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