Books I Read In May

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I cannot believe it is June already! June is my birthday month, and I’m both excited and scared to be turning 25 in just a couple of short weeks!! In some ways I still don’t feel like a “real” adult yet, so to be a quarter of a century old soon is so weird to me. It seems like just yesterday I was graduating from high school, so to think that in five years I will be 30 is just insane.

Anyhow, today I wanted to share the books that I read in the past month, because I really enjoyed doing it last month!  I hope you like learning about them, and hopefully you will even gain some inspiration on what to read next in your own lives.

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First up is another book from Jodi Piccoult, House Rules. I found this one at Savers, a local thrift shop, and since Piccoult is one of my favorite authors, I was excited to be able to find this one for cheap!

Here’s the summary from the back of the book: “Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject– forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?”

A couple of years ago, I spent a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. While I was there, I helped manage a volunteer program that gives people with disabilities a chance to strengthen job skills. I worked with a few different people, but one of the people I worked closely with was a young man with autism. This experience challenged me to learn more about autism, but more importantly, it allowed me to become a more tolerant and understanding person as I worked with Miles.

I was definitely drawn to this book because I really enjoy Piccoult’s writing, but the focus on the autism spectrum drew me in as well. Because of my experiences at the Council, I found it easy to identify with Jacob and really feel for him when he was suspected of murder. I think overall she did a good job with accurately depicting someone with an autism spectrum disorder, which is so important. I appreciated the research that she did and I think that showed throughout the book. The book was really suspenseful and kept you interested the whole time as well.

The only complaint I have for this one is that it does end abruptly, and I found myself wanting more. Even though I think most of the loose ends were resolved by the end of the book, I still had questions about what happened and what the characters’ futures will be like in the aftermath. She left it open-ended, which some people like, but I find that frustrating! Other than that though, I’m glad I read this book and I enjoyed it overall.

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Next up is The Girls by Emma Cline. This book is about a young girl named Evie who finds herself drawn into a cult in California. Here’s the summary: “Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged– a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling .psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction– and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.”

There are obvious similarities between the fictional cult in this book and the cult led by Charles Manson, which is what initially attracted me to the story. I’ve always had a morbid curiosity about cults and the people who follow them, not because I would ever want to be in one, but just because it’s so unbelievable to me that people could blindly follow someone no matter what.

Obviously I think Charles Manson is a horrible person and the crimes that he and his “family” committed are tragic, but I’ve always been curious about what makes people attracted to cults and why anyone would get involved. This novel focuses on the girls who join the cult, rather than the cult leader himself, which is what I found most interesting. Throughout the whole book you know that murders will end up taking place, but learning about the girls and understanding their low self-esteem makes it easy to see why they would be persuaded into doing such awful things.

In so many news stories about the Charles Manson family and other cults, there is such a big focus on the cult leader instead of the cult members. Although this was a fictional cult in The Girls, it was refreshing to learn more about cult followers and why they make the decisions they do.

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DSC_0570 And finally, the last book I read during the month of May was The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. This was actually one that my Grammy gave to me, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with it since she has different tastes than me, but I actually really enjoyed it! Here’s the summary: “Luminous, haunting, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, an unforgettable story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life– the fissures in her family, the loss of friends, the hopeful anguish of love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather, who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloguing his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.”

Considering the looming threats of global warming, I am always thinking about what would happen if something in our environment changed. This made the novel interesting to read, because it is so relevant to what’s happening today. Even today, there are still people who don’t believe that climate change is a real thing and try to avoid thinking about it. In this book, there are people who don’t want to believe that the earth is slowing and choose to stay in the same time zones even though it seems ridiculous. Instead of working toward fixing the problem, they want to pretend that there is nothing wrong.

This one was definitely a page-turner, and it really made me think. At one point in the book, the days swell from 24-hour days to 40-hour days, which is insane to think about. I’m sure there are busy people out there who would actually enjoy having more time to get things done, but I can’t even imagine it. It also makes me want to get more involved in environmental efforts so that things like this don’t happen for real in the future.

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So there you have it. Those were the three books I read in May. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it might give you ideas about what to read in the future. I would definitely recommend all of these books to anyone! Do any of you have books that you have been enjoying lately? I’d love to hear about them!

Love,

Sara

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