Brace yourselves for a long, long blog post, people. I know other bloggers share their review throughout the month in shorter doses so their posts aren't as crazy as this one, but you know what, I do things my own way. That means ONE post with ALL the reviews, and you can just take it or leave it. :)
Update: I'm at 49 books read of my 200 book goal for 2017, which puts me 1 behind schedule... so I'll need to step things up here in April just a little bit! Connect with me on Goodreads if you want to follow along!
Here's what I read this March!
The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: A brilliant and inspirational roadmap for discovering and cultivating a strong sense of personal style and building the ideal wardrobe for your lifestyle. (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I grabbed this one because I'm in the middle of my first capsule wardrobe experiment, and I thought it would be a helpful read. Had it been the first thing I had read about curated closets and capsule wardrobes and the like, I think I would have been WOWED by the information, the processes shared, the helpful advice on how to identify your own style, etc, but since I've been doing lots of research on this whole idea, I didn't find much of it to be new information. As far as a helpful resource, though, it truly is excellent, and has everything from style advice to shopping tips to sustainability ideas... plus the photos are beautiful and it's so well-designed!
No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending by Esther Fleece
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "No More Faking Fine is your permission to lament—to give voice to the hurt, frustration, and disappointment you’ve kept inside and silenced for too long. Drawing from careful biblical study and hard-won insight, Esther reveals how to use God’s own language to draw closer to Him as He leads us through any darkness into His marvelous light." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I really, really loved this one. I needed to read it exactly when I did, and was so glad I had it waiting on my shelf. Fleece's story is seriously unreal-- I can't imagine going through what she went through-- but instead of telling it in a way that invited pity or feeling sorry for herself, she tells it honestly, openly, and in a way that really makes it bigger than just herself. It's a book I'm absolutely going to share with people struggling through feelings of depression/loneliness, because it's exactly the book I needed to read in the midst of my own season of those feelings.
THE DEETS: I received this one from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for my review.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothersis a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: The cover sold me on this one, 100%. How cool, right?! It's an engaging read, with layers of surprise that I didn't see coming, and a unique point of view that made it much more interesting than the plot might originally suggest-- I enjoyed this one.
Someday, Someday, Maybe (audio) by Lauren Graham
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I think I only really enjoyed this one because I was listening to Graham herself reading it, otherwise the plot was pretty weak (although La La Land-ish!) and nothing terribly original or exciting. It's a fun, light-hearted read (like a classic chick lit or flick, really) but not one I'd especially recommend or anything.
Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "This is a book about discovering what we really need. There are a lot of second-best options, but we weren’t made to live a second-best life. Finding what we actually need is different than what we are often offered. There are many books full of opinions, steps and programs. This isn’t one of them. This is about craving the things that matter. Things that don’t just work, but last. In a life that may seem to be all fun and games with an endless supply of balloons, author Maria Goff shows how this life is also lived with intentionality, passionate purpose, and a little planning—all of which make a life rich in legacy." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Like many Christians, I've read and loved Bob Goff's book "Love Does," so when I saw this one from his wife hit our shelves, I knew I wanted to read it. I wouldn't say it's as compelling, but her thoughts on love as shown through hospitality and motherhood and open doors are really beautiful. The writing isn't especially strong or polished, but it feels like a warm hug from a dear friend, and for that, I'm glad I read it.
THE DEETS: Snagged this ARC from work!
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I 100% grabbed this one because of that cover -- isn't it so pretty?! -- and was so surprised by how much I loved it. It's a quirky story that feels reminiscent of Me Before You or something, with a story that unfolds in a bit of an unexpected way that keeps you enchanted. It has a fun and likable cast of characters that are a little unusual, and the stories about the lost things scattered throughout this book are beautifully written (as is the rest of the book). I was so pleasantly surprised by this one and would absolutely recommend it!
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious)." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This wasn't my favorite of celebrity memoirs (and I've read a handful now!) -- it wasn't as engaging as others I've read, as funny as I expected from her, or as interesting a look at her life as I thought I'd find. I'd probably pass this one up, if I were you.
Everything You Always Wanted to know about God (but Were Afraid to Ask) by Eric Metaxas
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "inally a book that takes questions about God seriously enough to get silly (where appropriate). Wonderfully conversational and often very funny, this book joins you in wondering:
·How can a good God create a world that has evil and suffering?
·Is God anti-sex?
·Doesn’t science make God obsolete?
·What’s the real story on miracles?
·If God is everywhere, why go to church?
·Don’t we already have God within us?
·Isn’t God too busy running the universe to care about the details of my day?
·What does the Bible say about things like UFOs, ESP, and the afterlife–and what about Bigfoot?" (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I had mixed feelings about this author based on things I've seen, heard, and read about and from him, but the premise of this book (and that awesome cover!) grabbed me. I read this one in one sitting, and found it to be incredibly well done. It covers nearly every possible question people have about faith, from the big ones like why a good God would allow suffering, to ones we don't hear as much, like what the deal was with Adam and Eve. This is a book I will absolutely pass along to friends who are wrestling through these questions of faith, and one I'm glad to have in my personal arsenal as a reference when I'm asked some of these questions. It's written with a healthy dose of humor (that sometimes crossed the line for me into sarcasm and snark) and in a very approachable Q&A format that I think worked well. A solid read!
THE DEETS: I received this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.
The Little Paris Bookshop (audio) by Nina George
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I listened to most of this one on a road trip to my grandparents' house, and it was an engaging story on audio (I've found this to be rare!) -- stories about quirky, likable old men seem to keep popping up on my radar -- but I liked the angle of this one with the books as these remedies and prescriptions for ailments only Monsieur Perdu seemed to sense in folks. It's a sweet story and one I enjoyed but wasn't obsessed with.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl's coming-of-age in a polygamist cult." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: THIS BOOK. Taylor recommended it on Instagram and I took her word for it even though it didn't seem like something I thought I'd really love... but wow. Couldn't put it down. The story is about a young girl growing up in a crazy twisted Mormon-ish impoverished cult in Mexico, and it's one of those stories that breaks your heart while making you so engrossed in the story while also making you want to adopt all the poor babies living in awful circumstances... it's a must-read. That's all I'll say about it, because I don't want to give this one away.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice. Presented in a dual-language format, it is a book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Nabokov. A startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: So, I grabbed this one at the library recently, sat down to flip through it, and accidentally read the whole thing in one sitting. Oops. It was originally written in Italian (Lahiri is Indian-American, but on a quest to conquer Italian while living in Italy, which is just the coolest thing) and then translated by someone else (she says she wanted to keep her brain in Italian mode instead of switching back to English to translate it) so you get both side by side. I loved her thoughts on language and identity and the public perception of both, and found this SO interesting. I tweeted a few stellar quotes from this one and had lots of folks asking what book they were from -- if you're at all interested in writing, languages, and culture, this is a great one to grab!
Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "When you can’t see any hope in a season of difficulty, hunt for it by holding onto God’s character and letting Him develop your own." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This was another work snag (we get so many ARCs from publishers, and it's a dream) and I read it during a lunch break when I felt particularly tired and uninspired, and I'm so glad I did. Maples has a compelling story that really illuminates the need for hope even in the darkness and hardest of circumstances, and I resonated with much of her story here. It's a pretty quick read, but really encouraging for anyone in challenging seasons where the light seems so far off.
The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Carefully selected by the creative minds at The Moth, and adapted to the page to preserve the raw energy of live storytelling, All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Alongside Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, John Turturro, and Meg Wolitzer, readers will encounter: an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, an Afghan refugee learning how much her father sacrificed to save their family, a hip-hop star coming to terms with being a one-hit wonder, a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill s secret army during World War II, and more." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: As a HUGE fan of sharing stories (stay tuned for something super exciting I'm bringing back to life soon!!!) I knew I had to read this one. Also, that cover. Goodness, I love that cover. Anyway. The stories inside are wonderful-- eclectic, nuanced, well-told, funny, heart-breaking, intriguing... All the stars for this one. (Also, when talks can translate well from being spoken to being written, that speaks volumes, and these DO.)
THE DEETS: I got this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review!
Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I still haven't seen this movie (I know, I know) but knew I wanted to start with the book... and honestly, I didn't enjoy it. It was slow, seemed to jump all over the place between the different women, and was way too long to me. I said several times while reading that "this book is boring" which is never a good sign. Based on what I've heard about the movie, though, it sounds like they took what really is an interesting subject matter and fascinating women and made the story really come to life, which I think this book failed to do well.
Grace is Greater: God's Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story by Kyle Idleman
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Through the powerful medium of story, Grace Is Greater leads readers past their hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our desire for revenge, and our seemingly impossible situations. No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God's grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story. Perfect for individuals and also for small groups and church-wide studies, Grace Is Greater will help readers truly grasp God's grace, even if the Christians around them have failed to live it." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I breezed through this one during a recent lunch break, as our team at work will be interviewing Idleman for an upcoming podcast (I'll share more once we release it into the wild!) -- I grabbed several nuggets throughout the chapters and appreciated his thoughts on grace, but wasn't wowed by any of the things he shared. There were good elements and I liked the way he structured the chapters, but it wasn't anything amazing in my opinion.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: You guys. This book. Forget every other recommendation I've ever given you, and get this one ASAP. Block out a day or a weekend or a whole week if that's what it takes, and read it without stopping. Prepare to have your own identity wrecked (it's all about race, and it will truly wreck you) and your privilege brought into the spotlight (uncomfortable but SO NECESSARY) and your heart just torn a million different ways as you relate to, love, hate, root for, and want to kill these characters. WHAT A STORY. Picoult tackles the hard topics in the most powerful way, and I cannot put enough good words around this one. Wow.