3 Book Reviews: 1776, Riding Lessons, Call the Midwife


[My current read: Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. Fun with a capital F.]

Reading and I have an on-again/off-again relationship. I love it dearly, but since graduating from college and starting my career as a professional editor, sometimes the last thing I want to do is read outside of work when I already read every day all day long.

So I go months without picking up a book for pleasure, until one day I get a book recommendation I simply can't turn away from, and then I'm hooked again for a while until I decide I can't bear to read outside of work. And so on.

It's been that way for going on five years now, and currently I'm in my "on again" stage of reading. Instead of separate reviews, I am putting my most recent three into one post.

|| 1776 by David McCullough

Last month I read 1776, which is a historical novel about the year 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

It's a book I would have never read except for the fact that Jordan owns it, and I happened upon it one day while browsing our bookshelf for something to read. 1776 is one of those books that always sounded and looked way too intimidating and scholarly, and I had assumed I would hate it.

My experience was quite the opposite.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and (considering all the historical facts, including dates, names, and places), it moved quickly. The first few chapters were slow going, mostly because it was about a topic on which I am not familiar and I just had to get familiar with the principal characters. Once I did, I learned a lot, and it's clear McCullough did his research, because the book is filled with letters and pictures from the year 1776.

At the end of it all, I wanted to find something else to read about the time period, and I am glad Jordan owns a copy of John Adams (by the same author), because I will definitely be reading it before the year is out. Jordan loves history and knows so much, but I must not have been listening during history class, because it seems like there is no end to the information I don't know. 

Reading Bonhoeffer last year was an eye-opener (review here), and I am starting to enjoy learning about history through books like these. Another excellent historical nonfiction is Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (review here).

|| Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen

Upon completion of 1776, even though I enjoyed it, I was in the need for some fiction. While wandering the library, I saw the book Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen. I picked it up because of the author. Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, which I own and have read multiple times. I was hopeful that Riding Lessons would be just as good as, if not better than, her first book.

Sadly, I was wrong.

One thing about me is that I HATE not finishing a book. A few years ago I clawed my way through Love in the Time of Cholera, and it was such a terrible, miserable read. (It is literally my least favorite book I've ever read.) But I hate starting a book and not finishing it.

I have since decided that there are too many good books to read to waste time on a bad one. I have quit on a few books over the years, but they are few and far between, mostly because I go off book recommendations, and my friends rarely give me bad book advice.

Sometimes, however, you do have to give up on a bad book, which is what I learned 70 pages into Riding Lessons. I pretty much hated it as soon as I started, but I wanted to give Gruen the benefit of the doubt because I so very much love Water for Elephants. 

It was not meant to be. I hated the story, the writing style, and most of all the narrator. It's really bad to hate the narrator. I'm not even going to give you a synopsis of the story because it's not worth it. Instead I will tell you to read Water for Elephants if you haven't. There's also a movie, which is one of the better book-to-movie adaptations I have seen.

|| Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

After quitting on Sara Gruen, I was feeling pretty sad and in need of a fantastic book to follow up such a terrible one. It was perfect timing that I happened to read a book review for Call the Midwife on Melinda's blog.

I ordered it through inter-library loan, and thankfully it came in quick. I got to work and finished it in 4 days.

It's essentially a collection of short stories about being a midwife in the 1950s. The story is nonfiction but written like fiction (so much so that I forgot it even was nonfiction), and my only critique is that it ended.

The characters and scenes came to life on the page, and I found myself gasping and crying and laughing and wondering what would happen next. There's a PBS TV series based on the book that I definitely want to check out now.

Currently reading:
-The Poisonwood Bible 

The Poisonwood Bible has been on my reading list for years, and I am finally getting around to it (thanks to another recommendation from Melinda). I'm about 75% finished. Each chapter is written by a different character, which is a writing technique that can go terribly wrong if not done properly. Thankfully, this is done well, so I don't have to quit on this one. I'll probably write a full review once I'm finished, though, because I do have a few thoughts.

What are you reading right now?
Have you ever quit on a book?

What's the worst book you've ever read? 
Tell me so I can avoid it.

Allison said...

Call the Midwife is one of my favorite shows right now and I have been wanting to read the actual book. I think you will love it. Let me know if you watch it and what you think!!!

Unknown said...

I love to read... like, seriously LOVE it. I also seriously hate not finishing books. Here are some of my least favorites:

- A Separate Peace (ugh, so boring)

- Native Son (the only book in my AP English class that I could not finish)

- Oxygen (so predictable that I skipped the middle third and read the end and hadn't missed anything important)

Some of my favorites that I recommend to everyone:

- American Gods
- Cutting for Stone
- Middlesex
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Far from the Tree

Are you on Goodreads?

Saba said...

Yes! I was the same - when I was at uni I couldn't bear read a book for pleasure (law books have a way of making reading seem like the most taxing activity in the world) but I have been reading more regularly since then! Currently reading "Far From the Madding Crowd", which I have picked up 3 times before but I am now making my way through it!




Katie said...

i mostly read in the summer so i need some books to read soon! that midwife one sounds really interesting!

Hannah said...

Great post! I'm currently reading Alexandra, a biography of the wife of Tsar Nicholas II. It's fascinating and makes me want to read more Russian history. The worst book I read was Life of Pi. I was angry that I'd wasted time on that. I hate doubting the narrator and feeling tricked. I didn't know Call the Midwife is a book. I may need to check that out!

Jamie said...

I hate not finishing a book too...even if it's awful, I'll try my best to get through it. Right now I'm reading the Jessica Darling series. The first three books were great, but I'm not in love with the fourth. We'll see!