What I Read: July 2017

As I was reflecting on this past month as a reader, I was pleasantly surprised by both the total number of books I completed and the number of books I actually liked.  I read a few toward the end of the month that I really did not enjoy and I feel like I’m in a reading funk.  Fortunately, they really weren’t all bad.  🙂

july reads

Here’s what I read in July:

Where They Found Her (Kimberly McCreight) – a fast-paced suspense novel. It wasn’t my favorite but those who love this genre will enjoy this one.

When We Were Worthy (MaryBeth Whalen) – releases September 12, 2017 – LOVE this book.  Whalen’s writing gets better with each release, and this story arc was quite a departure from her beach romance novels.  This centers around the aftermath of a tragedy in a small town.  So good!

The Sound of Gravel (Ruth Wariner) – this is Wariner’s memoir of growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico, her struggles and eventual escape.  I found it so fascinating – the reader can feel her personal heartbreak and trauma, and, later, her triumph and redemption.

Finding Your Voice: What Every Woman Needs to Live her God-given Passions Out Loud (Natalie Grant) – I love Natalie Grant as a singer, but this book was disappointing.  The message was great, but the writing was weak and redundant.

The Dry (Jane Harper) – This is the first in what will be a series about a detective named Aaron Falk.  I enjoyed it, but it isn’t the must-read novel of the month.

When Dimple Met Rishi (Sandhya Menon) – This one came highly recommended.  It’s a YA novel about two children of immigrants from India who discover their parents have essentially already arranged their marriage.  It had many endearing qualities, but I didn’t love it.  It seemed a bit too cheesy and unrealistic.

Dreamland Burning (Jennifer Latham) – This is another YA pick and I was so impressed. The story is set in Tulsa, OK, and flips back and forth between the race riots in 1921 and the present day.  Latham shows the ways race relations in Tulsa have and haven’t changed and breathes new life into an often overlooked event in history.

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) – My third YA of the month, although the language and events in this book make me a little wary of calling it that.  It seems very “adult” to me, but maybe I was overly sheltered in my younger teen years.  The title comes from Tupac’s explanation of the term T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E – “the hate u give little infants f***s everyone”.  Starr Carter is our narrator in this story, and through her eyes we watch a young black man be killed by a police officer, and then witness the response of the black community in the months that follow.  Intense. Painful. Powerful.

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (Shauna Niequist) – I wanted to like this book. I really did.  Some of the essays resonated with me, but for the most part, I was SO BORED.  Sorry, fans of Shauna!

Girl in Snow (Danya Kukafka) – released August 1 – The publisher sent me this to read and review so I did but it was AWFUL.  Terrible. Don’t read it. I don’t even want to tell you about it.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (Fredrik Backman) – Two of Backman’s books are on my all time favorites list (A Man Called Ove and Beartown), but this one never hooked me the way his others did.  I’m sure there are many who would enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.

We  Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) – This was really more of a short story/essay based on a TEDtalk by the author.  Drawing from her experiences as a child in Africa, data, and simple logic, Adichie shows us that feminism is good for everyone.  Success doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.  What’s good for women is good for humanity.  I liked it.

I’ve now read 76 (!!!) books this year.  At this rate, I will hit 100 in mid September, far ahead of the last couple years.  My goal for the year was 100, so I’m excited to see where I end up.

As always, I’d love your recommendations, if you have them. 🙂

What I Read: June 2017

Apparently I read for all kinds of reasons, and one of them is to avoid doing things I don’t want to do…like finish typing my school administration internship log so I can finish my program.  It’s due at the end of July and is tedious work (that’s what happens when you don’t write the “reflection” piece as you go…WHY!). Of course part of the reason it’s taking so long is that I chose to read 15 books this month and little else.

What this means is July may not have a high reading total.  I’ve grounded myself from reading until I submit this document.  It could get ugly around here.  I’m also heading to the beach for a week mid-month, so I hope to finish before then.  If I don’t, well, this may be the last What I Read post for a long time.

Here’s what I read in June.

June Reads.jpg

Before I give you my thoughts, I thought I’d add a little bit to my monthly summaries.  Some have asked how I find/get these books and in what format I read them.  From now on I will be adding this information. I’m also going to write another post sometime soon (probably while avoiding my internship journal) about how I decide what to read, how I track my reading, etc.

Alright, here we go.

  • Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson (kindle book, borrowed from Overdrive) – I’ve never read a Dee Henderson book I haven’t liked.  Just good suspense and always ends with hope.  This one and Threads of Suspicion are the first two in a cold case series.  I enjoyed them both.
  • Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson (library book) – see above.
  • Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (library book) – this is a historical fiction novel that takes place aboard the Hindenburg during its ill-fated last flight.  It moved a little too slowly for me, but I did appreciate the author’s imagination.
  • And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (kindle book, borrowed from Overdrive) – it’s only about 95 pages but you’ll need to keep your tissues close.  The story of an old man and his grandson as they navigate his progressing dementia.
  • She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 8th) – I am so glad I was able to read this book and will definitely buy a paper copy in August. Chrystal is able to navigate a difficult subject and balance the tension between knowing yourself and finding your identity in Christ. I must admit was I concerned because sometimes the Evans family get a little too close to the prosperity gospel train, but I didn’t get that from this book.
  • The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen (library book) – a great beach read – the air of mystery and a healthy dose of romance.  It also helps that it takes place at the beach!
  • Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth A. Tucker (kindle from NetGalley) – drawing from personal experience and her interpretation of theology, Tucker addresses what she sees as a serious problem in the church.  I agreed with most, but definitely not all, that she had to say.  I think her personal experiences (understandably) influence her interpretation of Scripture and she ascribes malice to some church leaders where I don’t think it’s appropriate.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys (kindle, I bought it) – This is another YA historical fiction novel that highlights a little-known event in history.  This is inspired by the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, which apparently was the single greatest tragedy in maritime history and I never heard of it.  Why?
  • Unseen: the Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed by Sara Hagerty (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 29th) – I love Sara Hagerty’s writing and couldn’t wait to read this book. It did not disappoint. Sara points out the beauty and significance of every day life. In Colossians, Paul writes “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” While many of us struggle with being unseen, through these pages we learn that hidden with Christ is a precious space. I smiled, I wept, and my heart was filled with joy. There is healing in these words.  It is definitely a contender for best book of the year for me. I will be buying this one.
  • The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (kindle ARC from NetGalley – released June 1st) – The perfect summer thriller!  I could not put this book down!! In the days since Gone Girl, the thriller/suspense genre has gotten a bit overloaded and I’ve been underwhelmed by many of them. This one, however, did not disappoint. Fast-paced and character driven – the best of both worlds.
  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman (library book) – someone described this book as Missoula meets You Will Know Me and after reading both, I get what they mean.  However, I mostly just see this as a fictionalized account of Missoula.  It was a hard read with some major trigger warnings but it is worth it for the ending.  I sobbed when it was over (not because of the ending necessarily, but out of exhaustion from the whole emotional journey).
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 29th) – this is the latest release in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series.  I’ve read of few of them in the last couple years but they haven’t resonated with me.  That being said, when I was offered the ARC I decided to try one more time.  And this series is just not for me.  It’s a good story, well told and beautifully written, but I want my mysteries to be told at a faster clip.  This was too poetic for my taste.
  • You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (library book) – another suspense story – this one in the world of competitive gymnastics.  Nothing is as it seems…
  • A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert (kindle from NetGalley) – apparently there is a difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling.  I did not know this until I read this book.  This gave me some ideas to consider.
  • Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 8th) – I was anxious to read this book just because of all the controversy Hatmaker’s found herself in recently.  Honestly, I think this book will be highly praised and successful in the monetary sense, but I found it unremarkable.  Hatmaker is a good storyteller.  She’s funny.  But I didn’t see any real depth here (sorry!) and I don’t really understand the point of the book.  I think I would like being her friend but if I’m going to have to choose a spiritual mentor, I’d certainly go with Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, or Sara Hagerty.

What I Read: May 2017

I can’t believe it’s already June! The year is flying by.  May was a busy month for me with state testing/the end of the school year and homework for my classes.  I also moved 6 days ago! Despite the stress of it all and a serious case of decision fatigue, everything went well and I’ve enjoyed my first week of summer.   I get to pick the days I work in the summer so I only worked two days this week.  In all honesty, I probably should have taken the whole week off.  The move has been very stressful for my dog and I think I was away from him a little too long.  For that reason I am staying in this weekend and hoping he gets more comfortable with the new routine.

Once again my 30 minutes a day rule really served me well and I exceeded my book goal for the month.  I only failed to read two of the days!

may books

Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon) – I Loved this book! This is a YA novel (and the movie just released a couple weeks ago).  This would be perfect to take with you to the beach, the pool, or anywhere you know you’ll be mildly distracted. I read it in a day. My rating: 5 stars!

7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness (Eric Metaxas) – It me longer than it should have for me to read this book.  It is rather dry from a storytelling perspective but it is well-researched and informative.  Metaxas shares a brief faith biography of seven women and I appreciated learning about their important accomplishments. I’d never heard of some of them and discovered how little I actually knew about the others.  My rating: 3.5 stars.

Water into Wine: Hope for the Miraculous in the Struggle of the Mundane (Kelly Minter) – this was Kelly Minter’s first book, but the last of hers that I read.  Having read her other works, I could see that this is not her best, but it does have great insights about Jesus’s first miracle.  If you were going to pick just one of her books, though, I’d skip this one (not because it’s bad but because the others are so much better). My rating: 3 stars.

Church of the Small Things: the Million Little Pieces that make up a Life (Melanie Shankle) – this book actually releases in October, but I received an advance copy from netgalley.com in exchange for my feedback.  I love Shankle’s voice and way of spinning a tale.  This was an enjoyable read, but not my favorite of her books.  I knew it would be difficult to follow Nobody’s Cuter Than You. My rating: 3.5 stars.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World (Tsh Oxenreider) – If you love Tsh’s blog and podcast I’m sure you’ll love her books.  I was not familiar with her stuff and bought this because it was a Kindle deal of the day.  I don’t want to criticize her writing or ideas – this just wasn’t at all for me. My rating: 2 stars.

The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World (Lisa Harper) – I was so excited to be chosen to be on the launch team for this book, which released YESTERDAY.  Lisa addresses a rather difficult topic with humor and depth and draws attention to a side of the Father that can be difficult to understand.  She borrows many of her ideas from Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness, so I’ve added that to my TBR list.  My rating: 4 stars.

The Book of Unknown Americans (Christina Henriquez) – I picked this one up because of my goal to read one #diversevoices book every month.  This novel is set in Delaware and shares the experiences of several Latin American immigrant families.  It was moving and challenging.  My rating: 4 stars.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Timothy Keller) – I will never be qualified to critique Tim Keller’s work so I won’t even put a rating on this one.  Comforting and convicting, I will be keeping this one close and reading it again.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) – I don’t normally read sci-fi….in fact, I think I’ve maybe read 4 total since I started tracking my reads 300ish books ago.  This one held my attention and I felt like I was reading a movie, but the premise (of parallel universes) is one that doesn’t usually pique my imagination.  That being said, if you like that kind of thing, you’ll probably love this.  My rating: 3 stars (but a 5 could be justified).

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng) – this book was on my TBR list for a long time. I was hooked from the first line – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”  This is a powerful story of a Chinese-American family in the 1970s, a moving portrait of families in general.  I loved this book.  My rating: 5 stars.

Love Story (Karen Kingsbury) – This is another netgalley.com find and the book will release next week.  The more I read the less I like Kingsbury’s books because I think she (or her publisher) far prefer getting out new books quickly at the expense of quality writing.   Her stories are beginning to feel like Christian melodrama and I find it disappointing.  That being said, this is another in the Baxter family series and I do love those characters so I will always read these books.  If you’ve read and enjoyed others in the series, you will enjoy this one as well.

The Girl You Left Behind (JoJo Moyes) – I’m a Moyes fan, but this one started out slow for me.  I almost abandoned it, but I am glad I persisted.  The story did not take the path I expected, and I appreciated the twists. I wouldn’t call it suspense, but there is an air of mystery.  My rating: 3 stars.

 

Total Books Read in 2017: 50.

What have you been reading lately?

What I Read: April 2017

This month I approached my reading a bit differently than I usually do.  I made a goal to read 30 minutes daily and did so on 29 out of 30 days!  I will say, however, that I read far more than the 14.5 hours…as you will likely assume when you see the total number of books I read this month.  I had a week of spring break and I read several hours each day — I’m also a fast reader.  I am going to once again set the 30 minutes goal for May, though I doubt I will get through even close to as many books due to a much busier calendar.  I noticed reading puts my mind at ease in a way television can’t.  I explained it to a friend this way – when I am reading, all I can do is read.  It takes every part of my mind and emotions.  I can truly escape from my worries or thoughts of the day.  When I watch TV, I am often trying to multitask – cleaning or catching up on work email or scrolling through my phone.  For me, books are so much better.

Here are the 13 (!!!) books I read in April:

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The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life (Ann Voskamp): A good read for the end of Lent. I have a love/hate relationship with Ann Voskamp’s style and therefore had mixed feelings about this one.  My rating: 3 stars.

Along the Infinite Sea (Beatriz Williams): the first of anything I’ve read by Beatriz Williams.  I think I want to read them all! My rating: 4 stars.

In a Dark,  Dark Wood (Ruth Ware): a good thriller about a bachelorette weekend gone wrong. Kept me in suspense the whole time.  My rating: 3 stars.

Between Shades of Gray (Ruth Sepetys): this is a YA novel about the plight of Lithuanians during World War II.  I knew nothing about the topic and this was a good introduction.  My rating: 4 stars.

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi): all I can say is “wow”! This is a sweeping epic that begins in colonial Africa and reaches to the present day.  For those of you trying to read the words of #ownvoices or #diversebooks authors, this is a great one.  And Gyasi is younger than I am! She and Brit Bennett (last month) amaze me.  My rating: 5 stars!

Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything (Gloria Furman): If I am ever able to write a book, I want it to be one like this.  Furman writes with joy and wisdom.  She presents an in-depth study of Ephesians rich in theology and gospel truth that is told without too many anecdotes and emotional appears.  We need more books like this.  My rating: 5 stars!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress (Ariel Lawhon): a fictional story based on the author’s imagination of a real event.  This story takes place in 1930s New York and follows the three women who were closest to Judge Joseph Crater before his disappearance.  Fascinating debut that I could easily picture as a movie! My rating: 4.5 stars!

The Chemist (Stephenie Meyer): well it certainly wasn’t anything like Twilight.  It took me about 100 pages to get into this book..I almost abandoned it, but then things picked up and I enjoyed the story.  My rating: 3 stars.

The Bruised Reed (Richard Sibbes): It’s hard to put a rating on a book written in the 1600s so I’m not even going to try.  A beautiful and comforting study of the passage of scripture that includes, “A bruised reed he will not break.”

A Piece of the World (Christina Baker Kline): Another great book! This is a character study based on the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting, Christina’s World.  Kline took what little we know about the real Christina and Andrew Wyeth’s biography and imagines the years leading up to the image.  I enjoyed this book. My rating: 4 stars.

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Hannah Anderson): While Furman’s book had my soul saying, “Amen,” this one brought great conviction. Taking wisdom from agriculture and scripture, Anderson shows us that humility is the answer to our restlessness, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy.  I will be reading this one again, and soon.  My rating: 5 stars.

A Hundred Summers (Beatriz Williams) – I plan to read everything this woman writes.  This one would make a great beach read. I just loved it (and it was set in the 1930s…a period I’m beginning to enjoy).  My rating: 4 stars.

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid): this is a very recent release and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love the genre.  Magical realism isn’t something I read often and I had some difficulty with it.  It’s worth the struggle, even if you have to suspend reality, because this book is a great commentary on so many relevant social issues.  My rating: 4 stars.

What I Read: March 2017

I can’t believe it but I kept up my two books per week average yet again during March.  I did not, however, read every day and that is something I’m really trying to do this year.  Below is my March reading list – it’s got some good ones, some great ones, and some that aren’t worth your time.

Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up (Ian and Larissa Murphy): I admire this couple, especially Larissa, quite a bit.  I first heard their story through a video Desiring God promoted and they have a hard but inspiring story.  I was eager to read this, but it wasn’t what I expected.  I am hesitant to say anything critical because this book is written by two people telling their life story, but they would have benefited from a ghost writer.  That’s all.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Eric Metaxas) – an extremely well-researched and well-written biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It took me several months to read but it was worth the time.

Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult) – just when I was ready to give up on this author, she surprises me with this!  SGT is definitely my new favorite of her books and one of my favorites that I’ve read this year.  It does not follow her typical formula and for that I am thankful.  I don’t want to give away the plot, but it is a fast-paced story with well-developed characters….and takes a look at race relations in America.

The Wonder (Emma Donoghue) – this is the second of Donoghue’s books that I’ve read (the first was Room).  I read this one in a day – it drew me in from the beginning and the story went in a direction I did not expect.  I think Geraldine Brooks fans would like this book.  I enjoyed it.

We Were Liars (e. lockhart) – I picked up this YA novel as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge – I needed one with an unreliable narrator and this did not disappoint.  Just when I thought I understood what was happening it became very clear I was way off.  Other people have said they figured out the plot twist early in the novel – I almost want to read it again to see if I can find the clues.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (Amy Schumer) – this book was not for me.  Schumer starts the book talking about her sexual escapades, tells the reader the book isn’t about sex, and then talks about it on just about every page. I skipped through a lot of it and never found any redeeming qualities.  If you want a funny book written by a female comedian, read Tina Fey’s book or either one of Mindy Kaling’s.  So much better.

English Lessons (Andrea Lucado) – I recently received an ARC of this book after being selected to be part of its launch team.  It comes out May 2 and I highly recommend it.  It’s a memoir of faith and I found it relatable on so many levels.

Emails from Jennifer Cooper  (Robert Scott) – you get the plot through the emails in this one and I appreciated the unique device.  It’s got action but it is also a great character study.  As a counselor and naturally curious person, I really enjoyed this part.  (Disclaimer: I have a friend who played a big role in the development of this book.)

I’ve got a huge “to-read” stack ready for April. Hopefully with spring break coming up I’ll be able to get to a lot of them.  Happy Reading!

What I Read: February 2017

[Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what I’ve been reading lately.]

February was another good reading month for me – I read another 9 books! It’s an eclectic bunch, as you will soon see, and I recommend nearly all of them.

Here they are (in the order I read them)

theselectiontheelitethe-onesearchingforsundaythemotherstheunderground-railroadthe-sun-is-also-a-staras-you-wish-cary-elwesno-little-women

The Selection, The Elite, and The One – Kiera Cass – what a fun YA series! To me this was The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games (at least it exists in a post-apocalyptic world that reminds me of the series – the contestants aren’t killing each other). It was a quick, fun, read. There are still two more books in the series but I haven’t read them yet – they feature different characters so the third book felt like a natural stopping place. I read these novels in 4 days.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leading, and Finding the Church (Rachel Held Evans) – this is one that I felt like I should read so that I knew what it said. I read it fairly quickly, but found several of her arguments headed down a dangerous path. I just don’t know about this one.

The Mothers (Brit Bennett) – this was a wonderful and captivating debut! One of my reading goals this year was to read more from diverse authors and this one fit the bill. It’s a believable, well-told story, that I don’t want to give away. Just read it.

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) – I’m a little behind the times with this one. This is a National Book Award winner from 2016 and tells the struggles of slaves fleeing their plantations on the Underground Railroad with a twist….the railroad is a real underground train system. A unique take on some hard subject matter. The railroad is the only thing fanciful about this book.

The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon) – another YA novel by a diverse author. This one chronicles one day in the life of two teenagers in New York City. It’s a big day for both of them (in very different ways) and I quickly found myself rooting for them both. An engrossing story from the beginning.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Takes from the Making of The Princess Bride (Cary Elwes with Joe Layden) – I read this one very quickly and thought it was ok. Fans of the movie will appreciate a behind the scenes look at filming, but I felt like there wasn’t enough for Elwes to write to make a 250+ page book worthwhile.

No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God (Aimee Byrd) – Byrd confronts the problems she sees in the Christian publishing industry, especially with regard to the type of product it markets to women. She uses Scripture to back her claims and offers practical suggestions for women and Church leaders. I look forward to reading her other books.

Friday Finds 2/17/17

And the weeks keep flying by! I actually have a lot to share this week (for a change)

First, as I spent another Valentine’s Day alone, I appreciated this post from Kelly Minter. In all honesty, Valentine’s Day was not a difficult day for me. In fact, some recent events in some friends’ relationships have served to remind me that it’s better to be single than in a terrible situation…

Apparently Fridays are when my sweet tooth kicks in because I am dying to try these Salted Caramel Chocolate Oreo Bars. I may stop by Kroger on the way home and buy one cookie to try to control myself.

And finally, I listened to a podcast this morning that stirred a lot of things in my heart. I am currently frustrated with the lack of depth/research in most Christian books marketed to women and this episode touched on that idea a bit. It also highlighted the many ways in which the internet/social media has provided an even bigger platform for things that are good and true but are not TRUTH. Albert Mohler refers to this as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

You can listen to the podcast here: Is Your Social Media Theology Changing You?

And, if you’re interested, here are a few more articles on the topic.

A Helpful Cartoon Illustrating MTD

Overcoming Empty Optimism with Soul-Stirring Truth – by Kimberly Cummings

Why Orthodoxy Matters by Aimee Byrd

Stop Calling Everything a Bible Study by Jen Wilkin