Friday, September 4, 2015

August Book Reviews

August Readings and Reviews

Hi y'all. I am leaving town tomorrow (Hello, France, Here we come....) but I wanted to check in and do a few book reviews before we head out.  I am currently almost finished with The Fringe Hours and plan to read a book or two on our trip - so I will have one final summer book review post once we return.

I have so much to say about The Fringe Hours which I will hold off until I finish - but the key point is that women need to find time to use their extra little pockets of time in ways that help them de-stress, get more done and do things they loved.  There is so much that I need to improve on with properly using time, but the one thing I realized that I recently do well is using my fringe hours to read (18 books this summer so far).  I love reading but in past phases of life (law school, etc), it was the first thing to go. However, this past year, I basically decided that I was claiming some reading time for myself.  I squeeze reading into my metro rides, waiting in line, a few minutes at lunch, drying my hair, etc.  My kindle and kindle phone app have helped me to be able to read on the go.  I still love good old fashioned hardback or paperback books, but I do encourage my kindle - as it truly does make reading anywhere a bit easier. And squeezing in that extra reading makes me much happier.

Same disclaimer as previous months: I am not a literary critic or an English teacher. These are just my humble opinions so take with a grain of salt.  Also, some books are more challenging and some are easy light fluffy reads. (don't we all occasionally need some fluff?)

You can find my entire Summer list here, my May/June reviews here and my July reviews here.

What I read in August.....

The Right Thing by Amy Conner
Rating: 2 stars

 This is one of my least favorite books I read this summer, which saddens me as I was so excited about it.  The main character in the book states that sometimes the responsible thing to do is not the right thing to do. While I agree that in such cases, this statement could be true (IE, the responsible thing to do would be to follow Nazi orders but the right thing to do might be to hide Jews; the responsible thing to do might be to follow down the path your parents chose for you but the right thing might be to start a non-profit or pursue an acting career or start a restaurant, etc), I found that its application in this story was way off.  The main character thought that the right thing to do was sleep with another man and leave her husband.  Although I enjoyed the dialogue and references to Jackson, I think the viewpoint that the southern wife and mother lifestyle was so oppressive that a woman should do what it takes to get out (even if it hurts others) was a bit misguided. Also, I felt like the development to the ending was a bit off.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Rating: 4.5 stars

I loved this book. I see why it got rave reviews.  The book focuses on the stories (starting during childhood) of a young blind French woman and a German orphan boy.  They both end up in St. Malo, France during WW2.  This is their individual stories and then the story of how their lives overlap. Fair warning: This is not a happy book. You will see the good in humanity and there are happy parts, but it doesn't wrap up neatly and not everyone survives. I loved how it reveals the complexity of the war. It's easy to see all Germans as bad and all Allies as good, but that's not the case.  Some people were thrust into a war they never wanted to join.  A lot of evil went on during that time, but so did a lot of survival and forced compliance. 

My one complaint with this story is that it starts out slowly, so it can be hard to get into at first, but by the end, you can't put it down. There are a TON of chapters (it's a long book) but the chapters are short so it's easy to wrap up a chapter or two each evening or on the metro ride to work.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Rating: 5 stars

This may be the best book I read all summer. I loved it. Absolutely adored it. It was another French WW2 book - but it was a book that focused on the "Women's War" - and how two French sisters go involved in the resistance in very different ways.  It's also a story of forgiveness, redemption and healing in broken family relationships. The book involves love, survival and loss....and I seriously fell in love with the characters.  Also, although there were no perfectly happy endings, I felt the story wrapped up a bit better than All the Light We Cannot See.  I think both both books are excellent reading.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Rating: 4.5 stars

I read this book in between my heavy WW2 books - and it was a welcome break.  It is about a scientist with Asperger's (who doesn't realize it, at least not in the beginning) that creates the "Wife Project" to find a suitable mate --and in the process, meets a girl (Rosie) that is all wrong for him but has her own project "The Father Project" where she tries to determine who is her biological father.  He eagerly jumps in to help her - and the two develop a friendship and maybe a little more.... I think the book shows that relationships (whether love or friendship) can't be based on what seems good on paper. Sometimes the people that are the best for us are a bit different than us!  This is entertaining and a light read!

Forgotten God by Francis Chan
Rating: 3.5

This summer, we did a little something different for our Small Group/Dinner Club.  People were going to be in and out but we wanted to still meet. So, we did various video seminars/talks instead of an in-depth study (so no weekly homework) . We also picked a book to read over the summer and discuss at the last summer meeting.  That book was Forgotten God.  I must admit, although I read this book, I read it on my Kindle - and I feel like a good in-depth challenging book like this one needs to be read in traditional book form with a pen or highlighter in hand!

The book is about the Holy Spirit, the person of God that most Christians know the least about. His presence is everywhere in my life - but I rarely acknowledge it.  I grew up in a less charismatic tradition - and the author points out that although it can be wrong to always assume you feel the Spirit's leading, it can also be wrong to never look for the Spirit's leading (many more traditional churches often fall into this problem).  Also, the point that hit me most is that we often are focused on where we think the Spirit is leading us for the future (should I be a missionary? go back to school? move? adopt?) that we miss how He calls us daily.  I plan to reread this book a little more thoroughly --and maybe take some notes!

What I have read/still have left to read: 

Book Club Books 
1. The Stranger by Harlan Coben
2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (and *possibly* the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend)
ADDITION: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (my July book)

Home and Marriage
3. The 7 principles for making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
4. Eight Twenty Eight by Larissa and Ian Murphy
5. A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

Southern Fiction
6. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
7. The Right Thing by Amy Conner
8. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

French Reads
9. Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
10. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
11. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
12. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
13. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan 
ACCIDENTAL ADDITION: Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe

General Fiction
14. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
15. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
16. The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
17. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
18. Paper Towns by John Green
19. The Life Intended by Kristen Harmel
20. Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

Religious Reads
21. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quireshi
22. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
23. Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life
ADDITION: Forgotten God by Francis Chan (We read this book for our dinner club/small group Bible Study)

24. The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
25. 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative by Dr. Paul Kengor

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