My November 2017 Reads

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This is the month where I went from feeling AWESOME about my book goal for 2017 to feeling PANICKED that I wouldn't actually get to 200 books before the year ended. I really cranked up things in my reading life this month, re-prioritizing books and cramming as much reading as I could into every free moment, and it paid off! The finish line is in sight!

Here's what I read in November:


The Genius of One: God's answer for our fractured world by Greg Holder (only $9!)

THE STARS: 3/5

THE PLOT: "The world is fractured. Tensions are high, patience is low, and goodwill is hard to come by. In The Genius of One, author and pastor Greg Holder reminds us of the high value Jesus and his early followers placed on community and offers guidance for how to see and relate to one another in emotionally and spiritually healthy ways so that we, the church, can fulfill Jesus’ prayer for us and model a better way of loving one another in a fractured world." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: There is a lot of goodness in this one, especially if you’re in any time of leadership role or have any influence in a group or community. In a time that feels extremely divided, focusing on unity and treating one another in a godly way is essential. There are many helpful and engaging stories in this one, as well as thoughtfully worded questions to help you reflect and respond personally as you read. I enjoyed this one and found it encouraging and uplifting.

THE DEETS: Thanks to Tyndale for sending this one to me to review!


Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "

Labor Day, 1976, Martha's Vineyard. Summering at the family beach house along this moneyed coast of New England, Fern and Edgar—married with three children—are happily preparing for a family birthday celebration when they learn that the unimaginable has occurred: There is no more money. More specifically, there's no more money in the estate of Fern's recently deceased parents, which, as the sole source of Fern and Edgar's income, had allowed them to live this beautiful, comfortable life despite their professed anti-money ideals. Quickly, the once-charmed family unravels. In distress and confusion, Fern and Edgar are each tempted away on separate adventures: she on a road trip with a stranger, he on an ill-advised sailing voyage with another woman. The three children are left for days with no guardian whatsoever, in an improvised Neverland helmed by the tender, witty, and resourceful Cricket, age nine." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I gave this one nearly 200 pages and kept waiting for something to really happen and get interesting.. but it never did. After a bunch of people messaged me saying it never really got better, i threw in the towel. The lives of the rich should be fascinating, but this one was painfully slow in its plot and pretty flat in its character development. There are lots of affairs (which i did not enjoy) and not a lot of good parenting (also didn’t enjoy)... this one wasn’t a winner for me.


Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Amanda Wakes Up takes off as Amanda feels for the first time that she can make her mom and her best friend proud and think about an actual future with her boyfriend, Charlie. But she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse—battling for hair and makeup time, coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob, mixing up the headlines with pajama modeling on the street, and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes. As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to save herself." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This was such a fun read (and i needed a solid fiction book after several duds!) and so strangely relevant to our political climate in America right now even though it was written before our election season. Amanda is a reporter and the book follows her career, love life, and just drama in general, and it’s so entertaining without just being fluff. I flew through this one and wanted to read more like it! This is 100% the kind of light fiction i love mixing into my reading life (and would love to watch as a movie too!).

THE DEETS: Thanks, Blogging for Books, for sending me this one!


Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri Nouwen

THE STARS: 5/5

THE THOUGHT: Read my review of this one for #COLLABOREADS here!


Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground by Jess Connolly (only $10!)

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "

Dance, Stand, Run is an invitation to the daughters of God to step into the movements of abundant life: dancing in grace, standing firm in holiness, and running on mission. Through story and study, Jess casts a fresh vision for how to live into your identity as a holy daughter of God, how to break free of cheap grace and empty rule-keeping, and finally, how to live out your holy influence with confidence before a watching world. Spoiler alert: it’s a beautiful thing." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This book looks girly but it is MIGHTY. Grateful for Jess and her wisdom, heart, soul, and fire for Jesus. This book will make you want to grab hold of grace like never before, to step into holiness like you never knew how, to fire on all cylinders for your calling. This one is a powerhouse, ladies.


Good as Gone by Amy Gentry (only $8!)

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "Anna’s daughter Julie was kidnapped from her own bedroom when she was thirteen years old, while Anna slept just downstairs, unaware that her daughter was being ripped away from her. For eight years, she has lived with the guilt and the void in her family, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night, the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. Anna and the rest of the family are thrilled, but soon Anna begins to see holes in Julie’s story. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she is forced to wonder if this young woman is even her daughter at all. And if she isn’t Julie, what is it that she wants?" (from here)

THE THOUGHT: Read this on the plane and was pretty unimpressed, but still felt the need to finish it. There was a lot of layers to the story and the characters but it didn’t really build much suspense (i had it figured out super early on) and wasn’t terribly original or compelling. As far as thrillers go, this one didn’t wow me, but it made for a solid book to read on the go!


Whole: Restoring What is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World by Steve Wiens (only $10!)

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: "Look around, and you’ll notice: The world is covered with jagged edges. People and places are broken all around us. We were made for better than this: We were made to be whole, and wholly human, to tend a world that is wholly humane. We were made in the image of God. This book is a quest to recover that image in ourselves and our neighbors, to help us all become human and humane again. For Christians who lament the brokenness in themselves, their neighbors, and the world around them, Whole offers a rallying cry to pursue wholeness together." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This book was exactly what i needed to read in this season. Convicting, compelling, helpful, healing. I tend to focus solely on my brokenness and forget to remember God is in the business of wholeness and restoration, and this book reminded me of truth and the way to the Father’s heart where freedom lies. So, so good.


The History of Us by Leah Stew (only $10!)

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach her first class at Harvard when she receives the devastating news that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident. Eloise leaves her life in Cambridge and moves back into her family’s century-old house in Cincinnati, pouring her own money into the house’s upkeep and her heart into raising her sister’s three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire. Nearly twenty years later, the now-grown children seem ready to leave home, and Eloise plans to sell the house and finally start a life that’s hers alone. But when Eloise’s mother decides that they should all compete for the chance to keep the house and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, the makeshift family begins to fall apart and ultimately must decide what in life is worth fighting for." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This one was just ehhh. I kinda wanted to know what happened to the characters so i kept reading until the end, but i expected much more drama and interest... and there wasn’t much. Not a whole lot happens and the characters aren’t all that likable with their lies and weird family tensions, and i just wouldn’t really recommend taking the time for this one!


How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself by Amena Brown

THE STARS: 3/5

THE PLOT: "

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: It was through IF:gathering  (i think) that i came to hear about Amena, and when i heard such good things about this book, i knew i had to grab it. It’s fun, real, laced with music references and killer recommendations, and honest. It feels like hanging out with a good girlfriend, and i loved the way the essays flowed together grouped into their themes. And even though I’m not married nor close to it, i loved her thoughts on marriage!


Enneagram Transformations by Don Richard Riso

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: "Enneagram Transformations is a groundbreaking contribution to the self-help field. Riso offers readers the opportunity to take a psychological inventory of inner strengths that can be invaluable for self-development and all forms of recovery." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This book is small but MIGHTY. It’s best read once you have a solid understanding of the Enneagram, as it’s mostly affirmations and releases for each type. I can’t tell you how moving the list was for my type (#enneagram1) and how convicted i was by the releases for my type. I want to write all of these down and read them again and again as i love toward a more healthy, integrated way of living! So, so good.


Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It's Not About You by Sharon Hodde Miller

THE STARS: 3/5

THE PLOT: "In this book, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision--one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. She helps readers
- identify the secret source of insecurity
- understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
- learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
- experience freedom from the burden of self-focus" (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I have loved following Sharon online for a while, and was so excited to read her book.! I’ve been increasingly more convicted of my own self-focused nature lately (especially as i continue my counseling journey) and it was such a timely and helpful reminder to keep shifting my attention outward and upward to Jesus. Grateful for the conviction and the heartfelt, thoughtful tone to this one!


A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "In A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has come to define her life’s work, transporting us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her treasured dog Percy, Oliver is open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments and explores with startling clarity, humor, and kindness the mysteries of our daily experience." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I’ve never met a Mary Oliver poem i didn’t like. This little collection was no different. An evening well spent.


Perfect by Rachel Joyce

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same.
 
What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan. . . ." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I LOVED the Harold Fry and Queenie books by this author and was looking forward to this one, but it was nowhere near as wonderful. The plot was sooooo slow and the characters hard to connect with, and the overall premise just didn’t engage me. The alternating between two characters seemed disjointed until I figured out the connection— if you read this one, when did YOU figure it out?! Overall, it just seemed to drag on, and I would highly recommend reading Harold Fry and suggest skipping this one!


Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "In Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I confess I'm cheating a little bit by including this one in today's round up... because I'm only about 50 pages in. BUT. It's a new release and I snagged it from the library, which means it's due sooner than most library books, so I wouldn't be able to still have it on hand for the end of December's post! And I'm 100% sure I'll be able to finish it today so it WILL be a November read! :) So far, I'm loving it, especially since I've loved Tan's books and always am fascinated to learn more about authors and how they write/live/etc. I have a feeling this will be a 4-star book from me! I'll update here when I've finished it, though!


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