What I Read: September and October 2017

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October is a month that always seems to fly by for me. The weather, the football, fall break, and then for our family, zooming into birthdays (three!) and Halloween activities at the end of the month.

And thus, I’m just nuts. So here are two months of book reviews I needed to catch up on!


Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – I listened to about half of the audiobook of this on a trip in July, and finally managed to finish it in September. (I tend to neglect audiobooks for podcasts!) The narration was good, and it was fun to listen to the Australian accent. This was Moriarty’s first book. It doesn’t have the great mystery aspect of her other books, although it does lay out a dramatic event in the beginning and then backtrack to get there. The story of adult, triplet sisters trying to make it through their everyday lives really is riveting. As with most of Moriarty’s works, a good beach read or chicklit with substance.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz – Professional cook and baker Lebovitz moves abroad to Paris, and recounts his adjustments to life in the City of Lights (and the city of tiny kitchens and refrigerators). Lighthearted and wry, with great recipes. I really want to try his Chicken Mole.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Stay with Me is Adebayo’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s gloriously lyrical and a peek into Nigerian culture. It’s also the story of a marriage: Yejiede and Akin see themselves as a modern couple in 1980s Nigeria; they want a child, desperately, but they don’t want to go to the cultural norm of polygamy. So Yejiede is aghast when a woman shows up and is introduced as Akin’s second wife.

The anguish Yejiede goes through, mentally, bodily, to have a child and then beyond, is fleshed out in this short novel. The military coup that takes place reflects the battle of the marriage. I know that sounds dramatic, but whatever. I thought it was a great book by a young talent.

Reading People by Anne Bogel | review by Jessie Weaver

Reading People by Anne Bogel –  I’ve really enjoyed discovering more about my personality in the last several years. I feel like I understand myself; some of the oddities I’ve always thought were quirks no one understood turn out to be pretty normal for an HSP INFP. (That would be Highly Sensitive Person, and INFP is my Meyers-Briggs type.) Anne’s first book outlines several personality frameworks, making them easier to understand and filling in with personal stories and anecdotes. This book is really one-of-a-kind, and I thought it was super helpful and interesting! If you’re at all interested in personality typing, you really should get yourself a copy. I especially loved digging into the cognitive functions of Meyers-Briggs, which I don’t know a lot about.

(I was provided with a copy of this book from Anne’s team at What Should I Read Next, as a former guest of the podcast.)

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian – It’s almost strange how much the story lines of this book and Rabbit Cake are basically the same: the mother is a sleepwalker and disappears, presumed dead; two daughters with a large age gap and a father are left behind to sort things out. But where Rabbit Cake gives us a quirky ride with the younger daughter, Bohjalian presents his dark tale through Lianna, the older daughter. Bohjalian is such a great, intense writer that I will pretty much read anything he publishes. But this was definitely not my favorite of his. This and his last book (The Guest Room) both have a heavy focus on sex, which I didn’t enjoy. Lianna isn’t very likeable, and I didn’t feel invested in her story. I need some likeable character, and I didn’t find one here. This was a solid three stars for me: good writing but the story line didn’t grab me.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – When I was starting this post, I tried to figure out why I had what looked like a gap in my October reading. I knew I had abandoned two books, but it still seemed like a long time! Then I realized it’s because I had read this book again. The first time, I listened to it on audio. And please let me tell you, it’s 100% worth it to find the audiobook. (It’s on Hoopla, if your library uses that service.) Jen reads it herself, and her asides to the listener and voice quivers when she reads something touching made me feel like she was reading it just to me. But because we were going to talk about it in a new book club, I wanted to highlight up a paper copy. I reread it in hard copy, and it’s one I think I will go back to many times. I love her thoughts on parenting, marriage, extended family, Jesus, and food. As a mom to four wild things, it helps to hear someone whose been through the trenches and made it out alive and slightly sane.

So recommend this. Let me know if you read or listen to it!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham – This YA novel gives us two stories: that of Rowan, a 17-year-old biracial student who finds a skeleton buried in her backyard, and Will, a 17-year-old in 1921, who has to face the intense segregation that seems to be coming to a boil in his city of Tulsa. It’s a quick read with a thought-provoking story, super relevant, and brings to light a historical event I think most of us had no clue about. Worth the read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – Ng (Everything I Never Told You) again writes about family drama in a way that sucks you right into the story. The wealthy Richardson family (two working parents and four stairstep children) has everything going for them except the outlandish behavior of the youngest daughter, Izzy. When Mrs. Richardson rents out a house to a single mother and teenage daughter, Izzy seems to find a place to land, while the new neighbor, Pearl, finds her place at the Richardson home. All this sets up the real part of the story – the family members having to choose sides about a court case that hits them all close to home.

The first 100 pages are a little slow to get going, but the payoff is well worth it. (And I loved that this took place in the 90s, when I was in high school – it helped make the children extra-relatable for me.)

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner – At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story lines in this novel, Meissner’s latest. There was a present-day character. There were women on the ship of war brides. There was Annaliese’s war story. There was Simone’s war story. And these all seemed to be sprinkled through, going back and forth in time. And – oh yeah – there were ghosts, too.

But it does come together in a very interesting and readable premise. While the ending is kind of odd, it was all certainly fascinating and something different. If you want a shake of the supernatural with your World War II drama, you might like this book. Meissner is a new author to me, but I’m definitely going to check out some of her backlist.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – I realize what I am going to say here is going to be a Super Unpopular Opinion, so please stop reading if you can’t handle that.

I loved The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked Green’s book Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I thought Green did an excellent job portraying OCD through his main character. But I didn’t buy the romance at all. I didn’t understand why they liked each other. I felt basically nothing for either of them. The most interesting relationship is definitely between the main character, Aza, and her best friend, Daisy.

Suffice to say, I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think that’s allowed. Just didn’t fill my expectations of a Green novel.

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So with those 1300 words, that was my reading for September and October. You can log this post as a novel on your GoodReads. 😉 What have you been reading lately?

What I Read in January 2016

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Please take a deep breath and proceed with caution. I’m going to be as brief as I can about the TEN books I read in January. Hellooooo, winter hibernation!

lifechangingmagic

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – I’m about a year behind on this book, but got it from the library Overdrive just in time for the new year. While Kondo is wayyyy woo-woo for even me (I’m fairly certain my possessions don’t think or need thanked), the basics are excellent and I’m starting to put them into practice.


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Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – This is the prequel to First Frost. I should have read it first, but I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, though. We were just back from Christmas travel, and I read this in one day, tired but happy to be back in the land of the Waverly family. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, and Allen does it perfectly.

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – While I continue to eagerly anticipate the final book in Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series (April! The anguish!), I am pretty much plowing through everything else she’s written. Which is a lot, considering she is just my age.

The Scorpio Races is a stand-alone fantasy work published in 2012. On the Island of Thisby (in the UK), Puck Connolly fights for the family she has left in the only way she can think of: racing in the legendary Scorpio Races. Did I mention that this island is known for having carnivorous water horses wash ashore every fall? That the people then try to tame enough to race?

Sean Kendrick, meanwhile, has won the last three races with his capall uisce (water horse), Corr. Only it’s not his horse; it belongs to the farm where he’s all but enslaved due to his orphan status. He longs of freedom from it and the owner’s son, the aptly nicknamed Mutt.

I found Stiefvater’s voice just as intriguing as in the Raven Cycle books. Here again, she takes a legend and runs with it and makes it her own. I did feel like the first half of the book dragged a little and I wasn’t as invested in it. Really, I wanted the romance, which she writes so wonderfully. This book is chaste, yet the electricity between Puck and Sean is kind of amazing.

So in all, I really liked but didn’t love it. Still, I will read anything Stiefvater has written. Even if it’s way outside what I normally read. Because she is awesome.

choosejoybook

Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver – While I didn’t “know” Sara Frankl while she was alive, I certainly had heard of her and her struggles through (in)courage and some friends. I was so thankful to finally read her words, put together my her (and my) friend, Mary Carver. Choose Joy is a compilation of Sara’s blogging interspersed with explanation from Mary. Over the course of her chronic pain and debilitating illness, Sara kept her eyes on God. I think Sara understood God more than most, drawing near to Him in and through her pain.

Her words gave me much to dwell on in my own faith-journey, and I am sure I will come back to them often. Choose Joy was a beautiful, quick read that I won’t be quick to forget. (This book was sent to me by the publisher.)

shadowsodthehidden

Shadows of the Hidden by Anne Riley – I think after the heavy of Choose Joy, I needed something lighter. I dug into Shadows of the Hidden quickly. At first I was sure I was going to abandon it, but (as another Amazon reviewer said) “it sneaks up on you.” I am just not a big fantasy reader, and the framework for this novel was a little creepy and weird. But as you get to know the main character, Natalie, and the quirky Liam, the novel becomes quickly engrossing. It was a big change from my norm, and a fun YA read.

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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Based on the two books of Smith’s I’ve read, I will say her books are kind of like watching a chick flick. They read very quickly – for me, one or two sittings. There’s romance. They are fun. Nothing deep or sticking, but entertaining. In this one, two teens connect why flying from the U.S. to England for various endeavors.

beggarking

The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy – Recounting a trying time in his life, professional storyteller ben Izzy parallels his story to some of the tales he’s told or heard. The short autobiography is a reflection on learning about one’s own story, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. This has been on my physical bookshelf for years; I am hitting myself for not reading it until now.

theguestroom

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian – I have to preface this by saying that I adore Chris Bohjalian. He is not afraid to tackle any tough subject. He interacts with his readers on Twitter and Instagram, consistently and kindly. But man, his books are a wild ride. This one approaches the topic of sex slavery: a wealthy man throws a bachelor’s party for his brother, and everything goes wrong. This book should have a warning label for graphic sexual scenes and language. But the story itself, told alternately from the best man and one of the sex slaves, is solid and horrifying. It’s not a beach read. It will make you think. It will make you shudder. I recommend considering your emotional state before you read this (or any) Bohjalian novel. (I still have nightmares about The Night Strangers.)

columbinedavecullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen – As I look at this and The Guest Room, it’s becoming fairly apparent why my depression has been slightly out-of-control the last couple weeks. I think I am pretty affected by what I read. Only happy books for awhile!

Columbine is Cullen’s 2009 work detailing how things really happened before and after the 1999 school shooting that left 13 dead in Colorado. Going back and forth between the years leading up to the massacre and the aftermath of the investigations, lawsuits, and healing, Cullen reveals police cover-ups, journalism missteps, and how the public clung to what they wanted to. He unveils the journals and videos left behind by the shooters, showing how they didn’t snap, but planned this for over a year, with their real plan being a much larger-scale killing.

Laura recommended this on the Sorta Awesome podcast. I probably never would have read it otherwise. But I was a 16-year-old junior in high school when this happened, and so I was very affected by the situation and its aftermath. I prayed and I read She Said Yes and I was scared to go to my school. So to read this truth was very difficult but also fascinating.

everythingeverything

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – In Yoon’s debut novel, protagonist Madeline lives in a bubble. Her house is air-locked, anyone who comes in has to go through decontamination, and she takes all her classes online through Skype. Diagnosed with a disease that means she’s allergic to everything, she hasn’t left home since she was a baby. Newly 18, Madeline is mostly content. But then Olly moves in next door. They develop a strange friendship, and suddenly Madeline wants everything she can’t have. This is a really sweet, shocking, and wild story, very reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars. The best part is the illustrations, charts, “Spoiler Book Reviews,” definitions, and other creative illustrations throughout the book, contributed by David Yoon, Nicola’s husband.

I just listened to Nicola Yoon interviewed on the First Draft podcast, and it was really interesting, whether you’ve read the book or not. Yoon talks about her background in finance, her Jamaican childhood, and being a voracious reader.

So what did you read in January? Do you cozy up and devour books in the winter, like I do?

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy