This month brought the start of fall weather (HALLELUJAH AMEN) but also a lot of humidity (go away forever plz), a trip to Nashville (so lots of time to read on airplanes!), lots of babysitting (making money to read once the kids are asleep? I'm into it.), and lots of busyness, too. But, I tackled 17 books and am still cruising fast toward that 200 book goal for 2017, so I'm feeling solid about it! Oh, and I also started an Instagram account solely devoted to books (because of course) and I'll do my first giveaway once we hit 500 followers (not too far away!) so go check that out and follow along if book talk interests you!
Here's what I read this August:
Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present by Carolyn Weber
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Drawing from literature, history and everyday life, Holy Is the Day is a collection of spiritual reflections that trace the way God's ever-renewing grace is a gift of the present. Opening it we find poignant stories of endurance, humility, compassion, remembrance and gratitude, as well a harrowing account of near-death experience. Carolyn gives us new eyes to receive the precious gift of the present and give it away to others." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I absolutely LOVED Weber's memoir Surprised by Oxford (please go read it asap if you haven't!) and was looking forward to reading this one! I still love her voice, writing style, richness, depth, and simplicity, but didn't adore this one quiiiiiite as much. It's still lovely though!
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one really surprised me, and I LOVED it. I had never read anything from this author before, but I've been hearing consistently wonderful reviews about her books, so I snagged this one at the library. It's surprising, heartwarming, fun to read, poignant, and just really, really good.
One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi (under $10!)
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune, and her aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of four sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.
Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. Their transformation won’t last forever, though—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I grabbed this one through my local library's Girls of Summer event that I apparently can't stop talking about (oops) -- it was an interesting YA/middle grade story, but not one that seemed to really go anywhere or say anything in the end. It fell flat for me, and felt like the story moved forward just to move right back where it started, without a lot of meat in between. I've seen other books for adults by this author (this was her first for young readers, which might explain things) and I'd be curious to give them a chance!
Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Okay so first of all, ignore that awful cover. I know, it's bad. As a designer, it makes me CRINGE. Anyway. The book. I'm a HUGE Enneagram nerd so I was excited to read this one, but I was underwhelmed by it. I've read better Enneagram books (The Road Back to You is the best!) and this one fell a little flat both in terms of the information shared, and the style in which it was written. I didn't learn anything new about my type or others types through reading this one, but I do appreciate when personality types are talked about through a Christian lens, so I loved that angle!
THE DEETS: I received this one from the publisher through my job!
Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants by Louie Giglio
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "In Goliath Must Fall, pastor Louie Giglio uncovers a newfound twist in the classic story of David and Goliath. The key to living free from our giants is not better slingshot accuracy, but keeping our eyes on the one and only giant-slayer—Jesus. Put your hope in him and watch Goliath fall." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I attended several Passion conferences as a college student and have heard Louie Giglio preach at Passion City Church on trips to Atlanta, and I was excited to grab his latest book, because he always brings a WORD. This one was no different-- bold, unapologetic, Bible-focused, powerful, and convicting. Centered on the story of David and Goliath, Giglio talks about how fear, rejection, addiction, anger, and comfort all must fall, and let me tell you, it will PREACH. The story isn't cliche (even if you've heard the Sunday School version a million times) and I walked away with so much more insight into this story and what it means for my life-- it's so good. Highly recommend this one.
THE DEETS: I received a copy of this one from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review!
New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 by Mary Oliver (only $8!)
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Mary Oliver has been writing poetry for nearly five decades, and in that time she has become America's foremost poetic voice on our experience of the physical world. This collection presents forty-two new poems-an entire volume in itself-along with works chosen by Oliver from six of the books she has published since New and Selected Poems, Volume One." (from here)
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”
Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now―her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl―but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed―and has not.
A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book was such an unexpected delight! I've realized recently I think I'm much more drawn to strong character-driven stories than plot-driven ones, and this is ALL about Lillian's character. The plot is simply her taking one walk around NYC on NYE, but it's such a lovely story with great flashbacks and interest and tenderness too. I really enjoyed this one!
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "In this highly anticipated new book, beloved author Jen Hatmaker parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere. Whether it’s the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”) or the way she learned to forgive (God was super clear: Pray for this person every day, which was the meanest thing He ever said to me. I was furious.), she offers a reminder to those of us who sometimes hide in the car eating crackers that we do have the moxie to get back up and get back out. We can choose to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold, and lead vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I loved this one from Hatmaker. Her signature snark and sass are strong, but it's tender too and hits some really beautiful and poignant notes to make it a really well-rounded collection of essays. I've enjoyed other things I've read from Hatmaker, but this one definitely takes the cake for me!
THE DEETS: I received this one from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review!
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.
Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn’t ask "Why did God say . . .?" To get to the heart of the Bible’s meaning, we should be asking: "What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?" In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of "is it true?" to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.
Rob addresses the concerns of all those who see the Bible as God’s Word but are troubled by the ethical dilemmas, errors, and inconsistencies in Scripture. With What Is the Bible?, he recaptures the Good Book’s magic and reaffirms its power and inspiration to shape and inspire our lives today." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Rob Bell... you are a character. I had never really read anything by him, so despite the controversy surrounding some of his theology and opinions, I decided to give this one a shot and see what I thought for myself. There were parts where I felt like he went too far for the sake of shock value, and honestly there were several times I felt uncomfortable with what he was saying (especially sexual references), so there's that. I did learn a lot of interesting things about the Bible that I didn't know before, which was fascinating, but the overall tone of his writing just doesn't sit well with me. Content wise, it was more solid than I expected, but style wise, I would rather pass than read more... so take that for what you will! For me personally, there are many Christian authors and teachers I would rather read and learn from whose styles and personalities are better suited for my tastes, but I'm glad I got out of my comfort zone to give this one a chance, and I'll definitely be mulling things over from this one for a while!
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I thought this one was lovely! I would never have grabbed this one purely based on the cover alone (I know, I know) but thankfully I had heard it recommended by @annebogel on the @whatshouldireadnext podcast so I snagged it at a used bookstore and gave it a shot. Such a heartwarming, sweet story that made for a wonderful weekend read.
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.
But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.
Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one was an unexpected read for me, and a little outside of my normal fiction preferences. It's offbeat, a little dark at times, has strong sexual themes and some twisted characters, a lot of art and acting and personality quirk themes... it's an interesting one for sure! It held my interest but the end didn't satisfy me like I hoped it would, but I am a big fan of character development so I appreciated that this focused on a few key characters and really painted interesting pictures of them throughout this book!
THE DEETS: I received this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Every heart longs to be seen and understood. Yet most of our lives is unwitnessed. We spend our days working, driving, parenting. We sometimes spend whole seasons feeling unnoticed and unappreciated. So how do we find contentment when we feel so hidden?
In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that this is exactly what God intended. He is the only One who truly knows us. He is the only One who understands the value of the unseen in our lives. When this truth seeps into our souls, we realize that only when we hide ourselves in God can we give ourselves to others in true freedom—and know the joy of a deeper relationship with the God who sees us." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book has been speaking right to my soul this week -- grateful for the words and wisdom of this one in this exact season of my life. This one talks so much about the hard yet precious gift of the unseen seasons and circumstances, the ones where we feel like nobody notices the hard work we are doing or sees how much we're trying or appreciates our efforts and our hearts, and it affirms that God sees us and values us despite how it might seem or feel. Sara -- thank you for speaking to the beauty that comes from the inner work we do that nobody sees and the hidden places where God moves in us to draw us closer to Himself and deeper in truth about who we are. This one was a gift to me.
THE DEETS: I received this one from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for my review.
At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "As Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes From a Blue Bike, chronicles her family’s adventure around the world—seeing, smelling, and tasting the widely varying cultures along the way—she discovers what it truly means to be at home." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I have long loved Tsh's writing and her way of living, and it was a treat to read of the year's journey her family took around the world! I'm such a by believer in travel and exploration and found myself wanting to be along for the ride as she shared of their adventures-- this is a fun one if you have any wanderlust in you at all! Also, all the heart eyes for that killer cover!
Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam's secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I'm not really sure what to make of this one. The characters in this family were interesting and unique, all on their own journeys toward fulfillment and satisfaction, but I just didn't connect with any of them or with their quirks at all. This one has won many awards (it was published in 2001) so maybe I just wasn't the right reader? I found it pretty slow and disconnected overall, and the ending was super abrupt which didn't help my feelings about it all, but I AM glad that my plot prediction didn't end up being right! That at least made things a little interesting.
Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "In this compellingly readable book Kelley Nikondeha—adoptive mother and adopted child herself—thoughtfully explores the Christian concept of adoption. Her story and her biblically grounded reflections will give readers rich new insights into the mystery of belonging to God’s big family." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I read through this one while on a work trip to a conference where all the folks we were interviewing were talking about parenting, adoption, foster care, etc, so it was definitely relevant. I appreciated the way she wove both theology and Scripture into her personal story of being both adopted and an adoptive parent, but I didn't find the writing style to be especially engaging or fluid. I kind of struggled to keep interested in this one, but I also think I wasn't intended to be her target audience. If you want to adopt, are curious about adoption, or were adopted yourself, I think you'd get a LOT out of this one! It's a pretty short book, too, so worth a quick read if adoption (spiritual and actual) interests you.
THE DEETS: This one was sent to us at work from the publisher!
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I really enjoyed this one -- it's a fascinatingly well-told story of life growing up in such a diverse, unique, and challenging South African post-apartheid culture... I learned so much, flew through this one, and felt all sorts of feelings while doing so. I haven't ever listened to any of Noah's comedy, but I've heard this is an awesome book to listen to on audio since he reads it himself and delivers it so well!