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).

7 Quick Takes: 7 Books

I’m linking up once again with Jen at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.  I’m trying actually to keep this quick, so here are 7 books I’m either reading now or hoping to read soon:

— 1 —

The Bridge to San Luis Rey:

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.

By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

This is the current selection for my book club that meets in, oh, less than a week’s time.  Soooo, I’d better hop to it.  Hopefully it’s available at the library!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Thornton Wilder before, but I’ve seen Our Town.  Also, his Matchmaker was made into the musical, Hello Dolly.   I watched the movie version of that, starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, over and over again as a kid.  From the description, Bridge to San Luis Rey sounds completely different, but it will be interesting to look for similarities.

— 2 —

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp:

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted–a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

I’ve heard great things about this book but I’m having trouble getting into it.  I will persevere though!

— 3 —

Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet:

Suffering from chronic illness and unable to get satisfactory results from doctors, husband and wife scientists Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet took an intensely personal interest in health and nutrition. They embarked on five years of rigorous research. What they found changed their lives— and the lives of thousands of their readers.  In Perfect Health Diet, the Jaminets explain in layman’s terms how anyone can regain health and lose weight by optimizing nutrition, detoxifying the diet, and supporting healthy immune function. They show how toxic, nutrient-poor diets sabotage health, and how on a healthy diet, diseases often spontaneously resolve.  Perfect Health Diet tells you exactly how to optimize health and make weight loss effortless with a clear, balanced, and scientifically proven plan to change the way you eat—and feel—forever!

I’ve read the first edition of this book, but I skipped around a bit.  The second edition comes out on Dec. 11.  It will be an expanded version of the first, with some more information and some corrections made.  It also will have an index, which is something I repeatedly wished the first version had when I was reading it.

— 4 —

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?  Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

I got this from Paperback swap a while ago but haven’t read it yet.  I’m intrigued at the idea  When I was 15 I took, along with the PSAT, a career  aptitude test.  I can’t remember what it said my ideal career would be and I gave it almost no credence.  It would be interesting to go back and find it.  Anyway, maybe this book could give me similar information.

— 5 —

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith:

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”– and the heart of the reader– in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

I watched the movie version on a whim when I saw it on Netflix.  I thought it was beautifully sad and that Romola Garai was so charming in it.  I’m afraid I might find the book juvenile and sickly sentimental.  I’m going to give it a try, though, the next time I need a novel.

— 6 —

The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh.  Actually this is something I want to re-read.  This description sums it up pretty well:

This trilogy of novels about World War II, largely based on his own experiences as an army officer, is the crowning achievement of Evelyn Waugh’s career. Its central character is Guy Crouchback, head of an ancient but decayed Catholic family, who at first discovers new purpose in the challenge to defend Christian values against Nazi barbarism, but then gradually finds the complexities and cruelties of war too much for him. Yet, though often somber, the Sword of Honour trilogy is also a brilliant comedy, peopled by the fantastic figures so familiar from Waugh’s early satires. The deepest pleasures these novels afford come from observing a great satiric writer employ his gifts with extraordinary subtlety, delicacy, and human feeling, for purposes that are ultimately anything but satiric.

So these are three books but they read like one.  A funny, unexpectedly pro-life story.  I read this toward the end of my Evelyn Waugh binge of a few years ago, and it’s possibly my favorite of his (though it’s hard to beat Brideshead Revisited).  I love the way this trilogy combines the biting satire of Waugh’s earlier works with the flawed but sympathetic characters you find in Brideshead.

I got to thinking about this trilogy when I read Jen’s blog post here.  There’s a line in the last book of this trilogy that sums it up so well: “Quantitative judgments don’t apply.”  Indeed.

— 7 —

Finally, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne:

Is it too early to read this to Girl 1?  She’s 3 and 11 months.  She loves listening to this wonderful recording of House at Pooh Corner that my mom got for us.  I don’t want to rush things, but I think Winnie the Pooh would be a great first chapter book to read to her.


Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!