I ended up getting through 16 books this month even though September felt incredibly busy-- I think if it wasn't for so many nights spent babysitting, I wouldn't have finished more than half of these! Those hours once the kiddos are in bed are PERFECT for uninterrupted reading time.
The library gave me some GEMS this month -- such a fan of my local library. If you don't have a library card, what the heck are you waiting for?!
Without further ado...
Here's what I read in September:
What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Loved this #YA read -- my first from this author (but can't read to go back and read more!) and there was so much more to it than I expected. Sweet, touching, surprising, quirky, endearing... such a solid, fun, easy read!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . The only way to survive is to open your heart." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one was SUCH a delight! Read it all this weekend and didn't want it to be over but love how it ended -- Eleanor is a character unlike any other but I fell in love with her quirks and oddities and love how this story progressed. There were moments I felt like I knew how it would end, but I was never right, and Eleanor kept surprising me! I'm such a fan of strong character development, and this has that to a T -- definitely recommend this one. (Also, side note: love that there was counseling in this book and that it was depicted so accurately based on my experiences in counseling! I think that matters so much and I was so happy to see that here.)
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Young Jane Young is a smart, funny, and moving novel about what it means to be a woman of any age, and captures not just the mood of our recent highly charged political season, but also the double standards alive and well in every aspect of life for women." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one centers in on a Monica Lewinsky-like political scandal with a congressman and a young Jewish intern girl, as told in chunks by all the key characters... but it honestly didn't seem to get much beyond a plot line that we've heard already. There were a few surprises and it was fun to see things from each different woman's point of view (the mother, the intern, the "new" version of the intern once she moves away and creates a new identity and life, her daughter, the wife of the congressman, etc...) but I never related much to the characters or understood the motivation behind their actions (which is the main reason this fell a little flat for me). I did appreciate that it was all told from the female perspectives and that it captures so many of the double standards women face SO well, especially since most of the time scandals like these turn out in the favor of the men. I think this one had good bones, but I just wanted it to have a lot more meat to it. (Weird analogy coming from a vegan... 😂) Anyway. What were your thoughts on this one?!
THE STARS: 5/5
THE THOUGHT: I wrote all about this one HERE!
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "In Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd asks important questions like: Is seeing God primarily as wrathful towards sinners true or biblical? Is fearing God a normal expected behavior? And where might the natural implications of this theological framework lead us?
Thoughtfully wrestling with subjects like Old Testament genocide, the crucifixion of Jesus, eternal punishment in hell, and the final judgment in Revelation, Zanhd maintains that the summit of divine revelation for sinners is not God is wrath, but God is love." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I don't have eloquent feelings or thoughts in review of this one. There were parts I loved, parts that felt a little forced, parts that lost my interest, and parts that really opened my eyes to a new kind of thinking about faith. I don't know if it was the writing style or the content, but it just didn't totally click with me and I never felt 100% engaged with this one, but I think I could really enjoy reading it again in the future. If you're somebody who wonders about or wrestles with the thought of God being an angry God, this would be a great book to read as it reframes so much of that mindset and reminds us God is a loving God above all else. That's a reminder we all need, and I'm glad this book hit that point home so well!
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: 100% got this one because of the title (I LOVE SHARKS) and because my friend Annie made sure I knew it existed... So fun to snag a signed copy at Parnassus on my last Nashville trip, too! This was an easy, breezy, fun read-- it would be perfect for a day at the beach (or a rainy day!). I obviously loved all the shark talk, and the characters/storyline felt similar to a good old Nicholas Sparks story, without so much of the sap. As far as fun fiction goes, this one was a winner!
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Chris Heuertz
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "The Sacred Enneagram is a trustworthy, richly insightful guide to finding yourself in the enneagram’s 9-type profiles, and applying this practical wisdom for a life transformed. Far more than a personality test, author Chris Heuertz writes, the enneagram is a sacred map to the soul. Lies about who we think we are keep us trapped in loops of self-defeat. But the enneagram offers a bright path to cutting through the internal clutter and finding our way back to God and to our true identity as God created us." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: You should know by now I am a BIG personality type nerd, the #Enneagram especially! I preordered this one from @chrisheuertz a while ago and dove right in when it showed up on my doorstep. There's a lot of helpful foundational Enneagram info in this one (which, if you know a lot about it already, might not be new to you) and also a LOT of new info I hadn't heard before and loved. The faith focus of this one is beautiful, and I'm so grateful for the ways Chris layered different aspects of the Enneagram to really add complexity and understanding to my knowledge of my type and all others. I learned a LOT and wrote many "!!!" and "how did he know?!" in the margins... This one was just GOOD.
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: " In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging. Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I have pages full of quotes I couldn't help but copy down, I have new phrases etched in my mind that I know I'll use often in conversation, I have a deeper appreciation for the wilderness and a greater understanding for how to both brave it and become it... This book is top notch. @brenebrown has done it again-- giving us words and wisdom that speak right to the heart of all the most important things about who we are and why we are and how to be better. I highly, highly recommend this one. Just listen to this: "The special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness, it's about becoming the wilderness. It's about breaking down the walls, abandoning the ideological bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather than our weary hurt." That'll preach.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Read this gem in one sitting, and loved every bit of it. It's a well told love story with enough twists to keep you changing what you think the ending will be about a dozen times and more emotion than I expected. This is such a great read if you're looking for some good, solid fiction with a strong love story and an emotional punch-- I was so delighted by it and enjoyed every page (and even the ending I didn't quite see coming!)
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "
Jamie Blaine’s life isn’t exactly going as planned. When a twist of fate places the late-night psychiatric crisis guy on 24/7 call, his insomnia ramps up to desperate stages as he veers closer to becoming the very kind of person he’s trying to save.
After a well-meaning colleague offers a workbook promising “the divine secret of life,” Blaine throws himself into the stereotypical journey of self-discovery with hilarious and heartbreaking conclusions that are anything but clichéd.
Jamie travels time to untangle his own story of God through the wilderness, battling alligators, acrophobia, anaphylactic shock, Christian tricksters, Christmas, insomnia zombies, hymn-singing bridge jumpers, preteen bullies, paranoid ER patients armed with knives, hatchet-wielding housewives, septuagenarian pugilists, locust swarms, and ghosts of the present, future, and past." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one is a unique, drama-packed memoir with many a crazy tale of being a psychiatric crisis guy on call 24/7, and I have to admit it's nothing like any other book or memoir I've ever read. Blaine's voice is one of a kind and his personality is evident on every page, which made for an entertaining and engaging read, especially because the stories he tells are wild, dramatic, and intense at times. You can feel the tension rise as he battles his own insomnia while helping others through their own breakdowns and meltdowns and crises, and the whole book feels like you're right on the edge of what could either be disaster or major drama. There were parts that felt repetitive about this one, and times where I feel like chapters or stories could have been shortened to pack more of a punch (it's not a short book!) but overall, the story kept me engaged, even though it didn't seem to really ever reach a definite climax or have any sort of satisfying resolution.
Overall, an interesting read, fascinating stories, dynamic characters, and enjoyable to read, but not one I particularly loved or would pick up again.
THE DEETS: I received this one from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review!
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end." (from here)
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better by Gretchen Rubin
THE STARS: 5/5
THE THOUGHT: I read this one for #COLLABOREADS this month -- check out my review here!
The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth by Madeleine L'Engle
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Drawing upon her own experiences, well-known tales in literature, and selected narratives from Scripture, Madeleine L’Engle gently leads the way into the glorious world of story in The Rock That Is Higher. Here she acknowledges universal human longings and considers how literature, Scripture, personal stories, and life experiences all point us toward our true home." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I could not get into this one. I just didn't find it interesting or well-written or cohesive at all. Every time I would pick it up, I'd maybe get through a page or two before finding myself annoyed and over it. I really don't know why, and I'm wondering if my over-highlighted copy from a used bookstore contributed to my annoyance... but this just wasn't one I could finish or enjoy. Anybody love this one?!
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt's The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This YA book is all about how ninety seconds can change a life, and how these two very different characters (an American girl and a Salvadoran boy) experience tragedy and overcome it to find hope and healing. It’s a beautifully told story even though it wrestles with hard topics (gang violence, immigration, family ties, etc) and it’s a powerful read. I loved the way this one unfolded as it flipped between Gretchen and Phoenix’s stories, and loved how their stories paralleled one another and overlapped too. This one is such a shining reminder of why we MUST read diverse books and put ourselves in other shoes— it will change our lives, too.
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Is privilege real or imagined? It's clear that issues of race and equality have come to the forefront in our nation's consciousness. Every week yet another incident involving racial tension splashes across headlines and dominates our news feeds. But it's not easy to unpack the origins of these tensions, and perhaps we wonder whether any of these issues really has anything to do with us. Ken Wytsma, founder of the Justice Conference, understands these questions. He has gone through his own journey of understanding the underpinnings of inequality and privilege. In this timely, insightful book Wytsma unpacks what we need to know to be grounded in conversations about today's race-related issues. And he helps us come to a deeper understanding of both the origins of these issues and the reconciling role we are called to play as ministers of the gospel. Inequality and privilege are real. The Myth of Equality opens our eyes to realities we may have never realized were present in our society and world. And we will be changed for the better as a result." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Love, love, loved this one (even when it hurt to read or made me cry or made me angry at how real and rampant injustice is). Grateful for the ways it opened my eyes to more of my own privilege and what I can do about it, more of the division in our country and how it has formed, more of how other people are experiencing very different things because of their race, and more about how we can actually work to bring about change and true freedom and healing for all people. This one was challenging, convicting, powerful, and necessary. It’s well researched yet reads easily, doesn’t come across as condemning or preachy, and helped me to see and understand more of reality. A must read.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I read this in one sitting tonight (thanks, babysitting!) and really just didn’t love it even though I wanted to, especially since The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ware is a thriller that still sticks with me! I just couldn’t connect to any of these characters or root for any of their storylines or care all that much about their relationships, and it felt like there really wasn’t much to the plot in the end either. It had some interest and intrigue, but the ending fell super flat for me and my overall feeling is just “meh.”