13th Challenge: March’s Chapter


First, I miss writing. March was a whirlwind of extremes, with its lows (company I worked for closed down abruptly) and its highs (new job for several of us at an awesome new company), with weeknights of three hours sleep some nights, and weekends spent only trying to get more sleep.  Of finally paddling a canoe with friends in the ocean that I’ve missed, and remembering that, as always, life isn’t how I ever expected it would be.

And throughout it all, I kept reading. From books to help me escape, books to help me feel something besides stress, to a textbook-like book about Willpower that made me almost throw it through a window several times as a struggled through it for book club. Normally, I would give up on reading a book before struggling through the entire thing, but guilt-trips and book club “friends” kept me going.

All the books were enjoyable (except the one), and the complete list includes:

  • Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal
  • In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner
  • Morning Star, by Pierce Brown
  • Brooklyn: A Novel, by Colm Toibin
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • Be Frank with Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson
  • Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
  • The Invasion of the Tearling, Erika Johansen
  • The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken

Highlights in March include:

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan – This book was wonderfully written, with the delightful main character, 12-year old Willow Chase at its core. This book was categorized by people in my reading challenge as a “book that brings you joy”, and described by others as heart-wrenchingly sad. As a general rule, I avoid sad. When you look it up though, Amazon lists more than 10 awards this book has won. It’s worth the read.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson – Knowing this book had an old-timey slapstick, improbable quality to it of the old movies (i.e. I took it with a grain of salt), I found it an enjoyable, fun read. At times the narrator drove me crazy, but I loved Frank, the nine-year old boy who prefers to dress as a 1930’s Hollywood actor, and whose eccentricities leave him unable to connect with kids his age.

Morning Star, by Pierce Brown – The third book in the Red Rising series. It was a solid ending to a well-written series. It could have used a heavier hand from the editor as there was a lot of exposition and self-pity by the main character. Not that Darrow didn’t have room for self-pity, but it could be shorter. Yeah, yeah, we get the idea, he’s sad, he’s lost a lot, his life is really hard, interplanetary war is hard, the aftermath of interplanetary war is hard, let’s move it along. Side note, my impatience with some of the editing could have come from the month I had, no time for extra information, get to the point!

In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner – Written from the point-of-view of a young girl, this book is the semi-autobiographical experience of the author in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Pulled apart from most of family during the Khmer Rouge regime, it chronicles experience in labor camps, living on muddy leaves and bugs, and just trying to survive. The language’s flowery description and view through the child’s eyes added a layer of separation between the reader and the atrocities experienced by the characters.

I had to read this book in small sections over time. Reading about the forced evacuation from Phnom Penh reminded me of riding through the streets, while the cab driver told us how he didn’t know his family as he drove us to the Killing Fields museum. Almost 25% of the country’s population was killed during that time, leaving people to grow up with no family or roots of their own. Reading about the experiences of someone who survived demonstrated the resilience and strength of mothers, children, and an entire nation.


The other books were all for mindless escape, entertainment, and fun. They helped keep me sane and helped slow my mind at those times when it wouldn’t stop racing. The reminder of how fantastic books are when I need to escape, become a better person, and appreciate how lucky I am to have the life I do. 

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