My July 2016 Reads

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Phew, July. You were a hot one. You brought quite a few crazy thunderstorms that made our power flicker and our streetlights stay broken for days. You also brought quite a few good books to my hands, and quite a few not-so-good books, too. I made progress on my summer reading list this month (I've now read 8 of the 20 I had set aside for this summer!) and am in the middle of a few more I'm not sure about yet... But progress is progress!

Here's what I read this July:


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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Back in December, Amber and I hosted our monthly book lovers link-up, #COLLABOREADS, with the theme of "a recommendation from a friend." I asked friends on FB for their favorite books, and got more than 60 responses (amazing), of which this was one! To be honest, after seeing the cover and reading the description, I wasn't interested. It didn't seem to be the kind of book I would like (Christian fiction rarely interests me, with the singular exception of Redeeming Love) but I have not stopped hearing about this one from several friends I really love and trust. I finally put it in my stack of books to read this summer, and let me tell you: I AM SO GLAD I READ THIS. I legitimately loved it.  The book is the story of Dinah, a woman who is scarcely mentioned in the Bible although her family is extremely popular in its pages (her dad is Jacob, who married Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah). This book was beautifully told, and a fascinating look at what it could have meant to be a woman in those days. It was a little slow to get going, but as I kept reading, I fell in love with Dinah and wanted to follow her story to the end, through all the tangled family relationships and heartbreak and struggles of being a woman in that time. Her story (although fictionalized here, I know) is a stunning one, and I can't recommend this book enough.


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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one has been on my shelf for quite a while, and one of my best friends recommended it, and this summer was finally time to give it a go. Goodreads describes it as "a powerful, tender story of race and identity" and that sums it up perfectly. It's told from two characters' perspectives, a woman and a man who had once been in love but whose lives took them in very different directions. Their lives are so completely different from mine, and although my experiences were different, I was so drawn into theirs and so curious about the way things would play out for them both. I fully understand and agree with all the hype and all the awards this book has gotten. I'm on a mission to read more books by people of other ethnicities, and I'm so glad this was one of them this year. A really interesting look at race, power, relationships, and success both in America and Africa. Definitely grab this one!


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Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This book was SMALL and while beautiful at parts, I felt like it was overall lacking in depth. She writes about a moth burned in a candle, a young girl burned in a plane crash, a baptism on a beach... but it just didn't really seem to go anywhere for me. It read like poetic journal entries (which was fine by me) but just didn't have the plot or power I was hoping for from Dillard. Not one I would spend money on again.


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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, so you probably know by now that I'm a vegan. It all started when I watched a documentary about the food industry (Food, Inc.) and was so sickened by the treatment of the animals, the additives and fake ingredients and everything that was in meat/animal products, etc. I couldn't stomach it (literally) one more time, and instantly stopped eating meat. Since developing allergies to wheat and dairy since then, I've become even more obsessed with learning about the food industry, how our food culture is different in the US than other parts of the world, how we get and grow and prepare our food, and on and on. This book is fascinating. It's so well-researched, so easy to read, so informative, just so, so interesting. The Netflix four-part documentary series is also EXCELLENT if that's more your speed. Regardless, you will learn new things about food, you will want to go back to the basics of cooking in the most beautiful and elementary ways, and you will be inspired to eat true, real, homemade food. It's just so good. Anything by Pollan is, though. You can't go wrong with this genius.


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Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one was sent to me in the best birthday package from the best Amber Thomas, and I had no doubt I would love it! I read this one so fast because I just didn't want to put it down. There are SO MANY WWII books out right now but this one still had me swooning. You can't help but love these sisters and root for Emmy as she defies the adults around her to chase her dreams (even when tragedy strikes). There's also the spin of the modern scholar interviewing the main character and then the story being told through her flashbacks that makes this one different, and I really, truly loved the way it was told. I appreciated how this one ended, too, which isn't always the case with books about this time period. 

IN ADDITION: Read this one instead of Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Trust me. But still read The Nightingale


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Vinegar Girl: A Novel by Anne Tyler

MY RATING: 1/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: WHY DO I KEEP LISTENING TO AUDIOBOOKS?! I always hate them. I need to learn my lesson already. This one was a modern retelling of Taming of the Shrew (which I love) and it was awful. The plot moved SO slowly. Honestly, I think I was on CD 4 or 5 before anything of interest happened, and even then, it was such a lackluster plot with such uninteresting and cliche characters. I didn't like a single thing about this one. I am very unsure as to why I even kept listening, because I didn't even like the narrator's voice. I guess I just kept hoping it would somehow get better? Not worth a read. Stick to the original, or just watch "10 Things I Hate About You: if you want a fresh take on that storyline.


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Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was a Book of the Month Club grab (I've sadly since canceled my subscription, not because I didn't love it, but because I'm just craving simplicity and need to not spend unnecessary money!) and it was GOOD. It's all about a plane crash, and you spend the book trying to figure out what happened, if someone was responsible, why only the one poor painter and one child survived and all the rich, privileged people died... it's so intriguing. The story is told so well and woven together in a way that keeps you guessing and wondering what happened. Really enjoyed this one!


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Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott

MY RATING: 1/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Anne. Girl. I love you, but this book is not good. I try to give every book at least 50 pages, but it was a struggle to get even that far in this one. Nothing happened. I didn't care about the characters. It was boring. I flipped ahead and it didn't really seem like things got much better. Every review I read on Goodreads also gave this one stars so I'm not alone in this... Thank goodness for her books on faith, but I'm just going to hard pass on any more of her fiction. I tried! (I did read Rosie back in 2015 though, and liked it!)


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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

MY RATING: 2/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: WHAT is all the hype about this book? I could NOT get into it at all. I wanted to quit at 50 pages, but stuck it out until 100 because I've just heard so many rave reviews...but literally NOTHING HAPPENS. It is so slow. So boring. No characters were interesting. The premise was not engaging. If you loved this book, PLEASE explain, because I just don't see it at all.


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The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide by David N. Daniels

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I am a personality type nerd, for SURE. I find them so fascinating and helpful. I've long been interested in the Myers-Briggs types (INFJ over here!) and have become so intrigued by the Enneagram after seeing more and more of the bloggers I follow talking about it. I had read a few articles about it and had a sense of what I thought my type was, but this little book (I had it on my Kindle app on my iPad!) was SO helpful in really dialing in my type and diving deeper into what it means. (I'm a Type 1, wing 2!) So, so, so much more to learn here, but this is a great start and a resource I highly recommend if you're just starting to dig into the Enneagram. Good stuff here!


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The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: A coworker of mine recommended this one to me and I'm SO glad he did. I'm still thinking about this one days later-- the characters are all so mysterious and quirky and I'm still trying to figure them out, the location is unreal and described so well, the animal life is written about beautifully, it's all just so other-worldly and bizarre that you can't put this one down. The narrator is unreliable (I still cannot be sure of what I think happened...) but in the best, most engaging way, not in a frustrating way. This one wasn't what I expected at all, but if you're a fan of things that leave you wondering, READ THIS ONE. It's worth every one of my 5 stars.


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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I heard about this one on Anne Bogel's podcast, and recently grabbed it at the library. It's about the relationship between 104-year-old Ona and an 11-year-old boy who visits her weekly until one week, he doesn't show. His father starts visiting in his place. As Ona narrates her memories and history in snippets throughout this book, you get to know her better, and as Quinn (the dad)'s life goes on, you get to know both him and his son better as well. This was a good read, but not an amazing read. I was curious about the little boy's quirky tendencies (like 10 of everything, even lists in his conversations) and wanted to keep reading to learn more about both him and Ona, especially to see if they achieved any of the world records they were going for. This is a good one to grab from the library and read on a weekend, in my opinion, but not one I would buy or need to read again.


ANNOUNCEMENT TIME!

Amber Thomas and I decided it was about time to bring back our favorite book-loving link-up. A few months without it was a few months too long, so HERE WE ARE.

If you don't know what I'm talking about... we started a link-up called #COLLABOREADS where we pick a theme for the month, you pick a book (any book!) that fits, read it, and write a review to link with us at the end of the month.

For August, the theme is: Read a book from an author of a different ethnicity than you.

Cannot WAIT to join all of you bookworms again! Any questions? Just ask!


Before you go...

One year ago on the blog: Not Over Yet

Two years ago on the blog: Strength. Progress. Change.