My May 2016 Reads

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This month, I tackled 18 books, and with all the birthday festivities that happened this month, I'm REALLY not sure how I did it. I've been making excellent use of my lunch break, I suppose, and keeping books on me at all time in case a few moments of downtime find me. This month was a good variety of types of books, and I really loved quite a few of this month's groups. Here are my reviews!


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Create vs. Copy: Break Through With Imagination by Ken Wytsma

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This wasn't the best book on creativity and work that I've ever read, but it wasn't the worst. It was solidly average, with a few snippets of new, quotable, helpful tidbits, but mostly just more of the same, I thought. I wasn't blown away, but found it to be a fun and easy little lunch break read.


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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I really, really enjoyed this one. It was fresh and new in a way that I haven't come across in a while. The story was engaging (Goodreads describes it as "a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past"), and the layer of all the meanings of the flowers that was woven throughout the storylines was fascinating to me. I was rooting for Victoria from the early pages, and was so curious to see how her life would play out, and really enjoyed the way this one wasn't what I expected it to be at all. 


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Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was one I saw RAVED about all over social media, and it came to our lovely book corner at work, so I snagged it. As far as books by Christian women go, this is one I actually liked, but it still didn't blow me away. I don't know what it is about books by Christian women, but usually I find them icky or shallow, but this one wasn't either of those things. It was a refreshing read, a fun read, and Annie wrote like a real friend, which I really liked. I'm all about choosing joy and choosing gratitude, and this was right up that alley.


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Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough By Jess Connolly and Hayley E. Morgan

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: It is RARE that I love books written by Christian women these days. Usually I find them to be cheesy or cliche or just way too glossy and not real at all, but this one really surprised me. It was honest, relevant, fresh, and not at all cheesy. I loved the way Jess and Hayley took turns writing chapters, but also both responded to the other chapters with their own thoughts. I was encouraged by this one and felt very empowered to live as my truest and freest self, which was awesome. This is one of the best books about Christian womanhood I've read this year.


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The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I'm so attracted to the idea of minimalism, but I'm also such an over-spender and shopper and Target lover, ya know? So this one definitely sparked my interest when I saw it come by the office book pile of advanced reader copies we get from publishers. It, like Marie Kondo's book, made me PURGE my closets and room and everything, which I think is exactly the point. I'm really adopting much more of a minimalist mindset about my spending and really trying to streamline how I spend money and what I purchase, and I'm loving the process. This is an easy read, but the implications of what Becker talks about are powerful and I highly recommend this one if you're at all curious about what it looks like to live minimally or you're feeling overwhelmed by all the things in your life.


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Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith

MY RATING: 2/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was a random $5 purchase from Barnes and Noble, and I just didn't like it. I wouldn't recommend it. I don't really know why I finished it. That's that.


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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of my all-time favorites, and this was my third time reading it through. I'm still just as in love with it. Lewis is just one of the greats. No matter where you are in your faith journey, there are amazing things to be learned from this one, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Love.


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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I received this one as my first ever Book of the Month Club box! Seriously, SUCH a fun experience. It came in the best packaging, complete with a ring pop and a note from the guest judge who selected this to be one of the May book options. It's a Pride and Prejudice retelling but in today's modern world, which I found to be a fun spin on a familiar story. It's definitely VERY different than the original, so while the rough plot is the same, a lot of the characters will surprise you, so if you're a strict Austen fan, this probably will bug you. It was a lot bigger of a book than I expected -- close to 500 pages! -- but it was a fast, fun read perfect for a sunny weekend.

IN ADDITION: If you want to join the club, you should totally use this link :) Oh, and the code "SUMMER50" for a sweet deal. I'll love you forever for helping support my book addiction.


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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was a historical fiction story that showed a whole different side of World War II, focusing on Japanese people in America who were sent to internment camps. I found this story highly engaging, beautifully written, and eye opening. I've read quite a few WWII books lately, and this one stands out as a fresh take on it all that I'm glad I am more aware of now. 


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The Essential Henri Nouwen by Henri J.M. Nouwen

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I just LOVE Nouwen. LOVE him. I picked up this little book a long time ago when I first heard of him and wanted an overview of his writings (I've since read quite a few of his books). It's broken up by topic, with quotes and excerpts pulled from all of his books, so it's a great place to start if you haven't read Nouwen or just want to read based on specific ideas or topics!


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A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker

MY RATING: /5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: So, I didn't know Jen Hatmaker's husband was an author too. When this one showed up at work as an advanced reader copy, I grabbed it and read it during a lunch break, and was actually pretty uninterested in it overall. I guess I expected more of Jen's style of wit and humor, and this didn't have that at all. It's supposedly about going deep in your faith, but it felt superficial to me. I really didn't get much out of this one, but I think for new Christians or believers who have struggled to really own their faith in their life, this could be a helpful beginners guide.


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How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This book was intriguing to me like many others similar to it are (Essentialism, Create vs Copy, Better than Before, etc)-- because I'm so interested in our we build healthy habits to live fulfilling, productive, and creative lives. This book wasn't dry or slow at all, but extremely helpful with an endless number of direct applications to my life and work. Every chapter ended with action steps, which I found SO helpful as each chapter got me fired up about a different facet of my work and I wanted to dive right in. There are so many acronyms throughout this book that are great tools for remembering how to apply these practices, and I've already started journaling with the "DATE" one at the end of the day to remember what I discovered, achieved, am thankful for, and experienced. I know I'll refer back to this one as my career continues, and I'm still thinking about so many of the ideas and strategies Webb shared here. A fantastic, applicable, helpful, motivating book!

IN ADDITION: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review, and I'm happy to honestly share it!


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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I listened to this one on audio while driving to and from work, and I actually think it was the better choice as opposed to reading the physical book for once! I didn't love the story, but found the relationship between the daughter stuck in the hospital for complications of a vague sickness and her mother who visited. As the story went on (mostly told in conversation between mom and daughter, with the daughter's insights and background and other thoughts throughout), I kept being surprised by details and different facets of the relationships and people they discussed, and it really didn't turn out to be what I expected at all. Not my favorite book, but an interesting one nonetheless, and a good, short audiobook if you're looking for something you can get through quickly!


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The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, Flannery. You are my soul sister, I'm sure of it. Your stories have the weirdest, twistiest characters, there's always some dark or broken or messy element, there's always amazing lines or quotes... you're a master of your craft and I'm sad your life ended so soon and we didn't get to see more of what you can do. This book took me a few months to get through, as I really wanted to take these stories in and not just rush through them all, and I'm glad I didn't. Girl has a way with words and such a great mind for fiction, and even though I'm not usually the biggest fan of short stories, I know I'll return to hers and dive back in to glean more from them as time goes on.

IN ADDITION: If you still haven't read her prayer journal, GO GO GO.


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I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: 

The cover of this one grabbed me when I saw it on the BookLook Bloggers site-- the green isn't often found on book covers and the title is in a large, handwritten font that makes it instantly feel like it's more personal. From the first few pages (they're the super slick, shiny pages, not rough paper like most books are!), I could tell this book would be perfect for high school or college girls who need encouragement for the adventures ahead of them. It felt a little young to me (and I'm only 24!) but I can't wait to pass it along to a friend. The chapters end with journaling pages that would be great for anyone wondering about and wrestling with the next stages of their life. Grace tells her story openly and warmly, and feels like a friend throughout this book. It's not theologically deep or terribly earth-shattering, but as the back cover says, it really is "a positive and encouraging book [that] offers inspiration to anyone who wants to live a fulfilling life right now."


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Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I heard about this one through Anne Bogel's podcast (I say that about at least one book a month, which I love!) and was fascinated by the premise, since it's the account of Doerr's year spent in Italy writing, which led to All the Light We Cannot See (a book I'm still raving about to everyone I know). It was a beautifully written journal of his time there with twin baby boys and his wife, balancing the magic of Italy with the hard work of writing and the even more challenging work of parenting newborns in a foreign country with a language barrier. It was just as beautifully written as his fiction, and such a fun peek behind the scenes of the life of authors. Loved this one!


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Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I'm on a mission to read more classics, because they've stood the test of time and proven their worth, and I want to experience all they have to offer. This one was a quick weekend read, with a storyline that kept me guessing and dialogue that was engaging. I think I could read it again and find more meaning in it, but it was an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to grabbing more Salinger soon!


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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: In total honesty, I'm almost done with this one but not quite, but I really want to return it to the library along with all the others I read this month, so I'm throwing it in this month's reviews. :) I'll probably finish it during lunch today, and I'll update this with more thoughts then! So far, I'm loving it, and I'm really curious about how the story will end!


One last thing...

Have you signed up for the Book of the Month Club yet?! It's seriously SO fun, and who doesn't love getting new books in the mail chosen by great judges? If you go HERE and use the code "SUMMER50" you'll get 50% off a 3-month subscription, which is a sweet deal. Check it out! :)

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