My August 2016 Reads

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I've ALWAYS been a pro-real book person and an avid anti-ereader person... until I went on a trip to the Grand Cayman with only a carry-on bag and realized I couldn't pack all my books and still also have clothes for the week. So, I caved. I bought a Kindle. And let me just tell you, I LOVED it. I plowed through so many books that week on the beach and on my flights (not pictured above, obviously) and love how convenient and easy it is to carry with me everywhere I go! I'm sold.

I was all over the place with what I read this month-- some really great ones, some super average ones, some really buzzed about ones... my reviews are all here!

Here's what I read this August:


The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: So, this was my first book ever read on a Kindle! That doesn't actually really mean anything, except it's exciting to me (and probably only me). I also didn't take a picture of me reading it at all, oops. I can't remember how this one got on my radar, but it had been on my to-read list, and I grabbed it from my library and read it in bed one evening. It's a fun little read, and Palmer's personality really just seeps through the page in a relatable and real way. There are lots of Brene Brown themes in this one, but told more through Palmer's (very interesting and fascinating) life experiences, so it reads more like a casual memoir. It wasn't anything amazing, but it was fun to read more of how it feels to be a street performer, a crowd-funded musician, and an all around good asker of help. If you struggle with asking for help, I can imagine this would be a great nudge to give it a go, because Amanda shows how great the rewards can really be when we let our guards down and just ASK.


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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

MY RATING: 1/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I couldn't do this one. Not at all. I was interested to read a very different take on Jesus than my usual Christian books, but I just could NOT get interested in this one. It read almost pretentiously against Christians, and I didn't like feeling like I was stupid for my faith. Sure, there are many historical and cultural elements of the life of Jesus that aren't represented in Scripture, and I love learning more about those, but this book was just impossible to engage with and I don't recommend it at all to anyone.


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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: My friend Holly recommended this one to me, and I'm SO glad she did. I couldn't put this one down (and I was on a beautiful beach with the ocean beckoning me, so that's saying something!) and was so engrossed in the characters and how all of their lives (white and black, free and slave) blurred and intertwined. This is a must-read, a powerful and beautifully written work of fiction that feels SO realistic and representative of the mess of our country in years past. Can't recommend this one enough.


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Infinite Home: A Novel by Kathleen Alcott

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one was an airport read when I had 7 hours to kill, and I was never super into it, honestly. It's an interesting premise (a group of unlikely characters are all tenants of the same building in NY, and their aging landlady is slipping and her son is threatening to change everything, so the story follows all the characters as they all navigate life and fight for home) but none of the characters really hooked me. Maybe I was reading it too fast and not paying enough attention, though, because all the Goodreads reviews I read had high praise for these characters.


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In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: So, this one is about plane crashes. Plural. And I read it in the airport before boarding a plane. Not my brightest idea. Not the best book either, but not the worst either. It was fun to read an adult book from Blume, and it was very readable, but it just didn't feel like much happened in the end, and again, like Infinite Home, the characters didn't really grab me at all. Solidly average book overall, not one I would buy, but worked well to pass the time when I had 7 hours in an airport to do nothing but read.


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My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, this story. Totally had me hooked. I had the feeling at one point while reading this that I might have read it before, but it's reminiscent of other time-travel stories too, so who knows. I don't believe we are reincarnated into other lives, but the thought is still fascinating, especially when you think about what it means to be a person (is it physical body that makes you you? or is it your soul, your spirit, your heart?). This one is beautifully written, it keeps you engaged as you follow these characters through their many lives and desperately want to see them end up together. Well-written, and a unique kind of love story that will whisk you away.

IN ADDITION: You'll recognize this author from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, which I was totally a fan of back in the day!


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The Book of Speculation: A Novel by Erika Swyler

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one was surprising to me, and I didn't think I would like it as much as I did. It was vaguely similar to The Night Circus (my review on that one here!), with all the circus themes and focus on that world (which is bizarre but makes me super curious). A mysterious book falls into the main character's lap and sets him off on a journey to trace his family ties and learn more about their connections with the circus, all while fighting against the calendar to protect his sister as the date approaches on which all the females in his family drowned. It will definitely keep you reading and wondering what will happen, and I didn't see the end coming in this one, which is always great. I'm looking forward to reading more from Swyler!


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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I read this one for #COLLABOREADS -- check out my thoughts here!


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Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel by Dustin Willis

MY RATING: 2/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one found its way to me through all the books we get at work, and I breezed through it during my lunch break. It's pretty simplistic and not a deep read by any means, and I felt like a lot of the stories (and there were a LOT) were cliche and basic, like a million other examples I've heard before in the church world. There were definitely some solid nuggets in here, and it was good to read through this and be reminded of the many ways community encourages and spurs us on in our faith, but there's just not a lot of great depth or substance here. 

IN ADDITION:


The Girls by Emma Cline

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one was probably the most buzzed about book this summer, and I snagged it from Book of the Month club. It was a story about one woman's experience in a cult, and it was pretty messed up in most parts. I honestly didn't like this book because of just how uncomfortable that world and what happened there made me, but I also wanted to keep reading because of how totally and utterly unlike my own life it was... I just felt pretty iffy reading it the whole time and read it quickly so I could just see if it resolved well (not really) and get through it without lingering on it too long. If cult stuff interests you, definitely read this, but if not, I would probably pass.


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Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: A fellow foodie friend recommended this one to me, and I really enjoyed it. It's less about food specifically (although there are recipes scattered throughout that made me really wish I didn't have food allergies...) and more about Molly and her husband's journey to opening their restaurant, and I loved following the whole thing. There's so much about the restaurant and food world that just fascinates me (like how the heck do you know how much food to have/cook/prepare for a night at a restaurant?! how can you possibly predict all of that?!) and this was a great behind-the-scenes look at one restaurant told in a really warm, inviting, fun way. If you're at all into pizza or the food world or just well told personal stories, grab this one! I can't wait to read more from Wizenberg.


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No One Knows by J. T. Ellison

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This is VERY Gone Girl-ish, like super super similar. If you like that style of book, you'll definitely like this one-- it kept me guessing, kept me flipping pages, kept me questioning who I could trust and who was good or not, and I loved that. I didn't want to put this one down! I'm not totally satisfied with how it ended, but it was a great and engaging read. (Also got this one from Book of the Month!)


Fellow readers:

Amber and I are hosting our next #COLLABOREADS link-up on Sept. 28! The theme is "A Banned Book" since (conveniently) Banned Books Week is the last week of September. Browse around HERE (or here!) to find a book either banned in the past or banned now, and get to reading! We can't wait to hear what you think of these controversial choices.


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