Monday, September 28, 2015

Late Summer Book Reviews

This was the FINAL couple weeks of my summer reading. As you know, I gave myself a long "summer reading" list (so I would have "options") and also gave myself a "long summer time frame". It lasted from Memorial Day Weekend until the week we arrived home from our France Vacation (so almost 4 months....) My goal was to read 15 books (of various categories) at the very least, but I actually ended up reading 20 books - and tackled at least one from each category! (Thank you, morning sickness, for giving me so much downtime at home to read books! Silver lining, I guess!)

Here are my final 2 book reviews for the first half of September.  I plan on putting together a MUCH shorter fall list and diving in soon!

You can read my June through August reviews here, here and here!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Rating: 4 stars

I loved this book - it was pure fluff and super entertaining!  It was about an American girl, Bex (short for Rebecca) who did a year abroad at Oxford during college and fell in love with the prince and future King of England.  She didn't even recognize him at first and certainly wasn't some love sick American chasing him (they were both dating other people) but slowly their friendship grew to something more.  They kept their relationship private for awhile and then faced the cruel media scrutiny and royal attacks once they went official.  This book follows their life from the beginning of their relationship all the way until their wedding day (I am not ruining any surprises for you as the book opens up on their wedding you are fully aware that they end up heading towards the alter)  The book shows the complications of a public relationship and the stress, disagreements hurt feelings that adds, but it also shows the couple who loves watching cheesy tv together, who has their own memories and stories the press doesn't know, who go through fights and make ups, etc.  They both make mistakes and do damage to the relationship and have to learn how to move forward.

Some reviewers don't like the book because it's supposed to be loosely based on William and Kate and well, although you see some similarities, it really isn't. I am not William and Kate obsessed so I didn't take insult to it. I just read the book and enjoyed the far fetched idea that an American girl studying in England could end up the future Queen of England.

You won't be any smarter for reading this book - and it also won't win any literary awards, but it is an amusing story that pulls you in. You get to know the characters (prince, future princess, their family and friends) and follow them through several years of college and post college life.  This would be a perfect beach read or now that its fall, a great book to curl up with on a chilly Saturday!

The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
Rating: 4.5 stars

I actually started the book in August (at around 12 weeks pregnant) Honestly, in my humble opinion, this book starts out slowly - and actually when I first began reading, I felt like it didn't really apply to me. The author spends time at the beginning talking about how we over commit and are too busy and need time for ourselves - and I thought, sure this is true, but (a) this is not a new concept and (b) although I do sometimes over commit, I am currently pregnant and have spent the summer purposely NOT overdoing it with LOTS of rest and down time, so this may not really apply to my stage of life.  Even so, I kept reading as I do have a tendency to overdo AND because I thought, these will be good tips for the future - for balancing work and husband and baby and friends and volunteering and church, etc!

But, then the book got REALLY good. It wasn't the same ole advice of "don't commit to too many obligations" or "learn to say NO" or "you can't do it all"  I mean, those pieces of practical advice were there, but this book went further, teaching women (especially busy career ladies or stressed moms) to carve out time for themselves by using their "fringe minutes and hours" for things they love.  This means not wasting time - the time spent on the metro, waiting in the doctor's office, the 30 minutes you have at lunch, even the time you spend drying your hair (the author flips through magazines during this time).  It also means choosing not to waste the little minutes of free time you have throughout the day - OR thinking that you have a lot of time to do something you enjoy.  The author uses scrap booking, one of her hobbies, as an example. During the day, she may have a couple different periods of 10-20 minutes and she could easily assume that it's not enough time to do anything she enjoys and just choose to play on Facebook or check her email or flip through the channels - OR she could scrapbook maybe one page for her newest album.

This is the part of the book that really challenged me - the reality that I waste "pockets of time" throughout my day. Sure, I very rarely have several full hours on a weeknight to do something I love, but I often have pockets of time throughout my day.  What I also noticed is that there were already ways that I did use my "pockets of time" well - and at the same time, many more times when I didn't. An example of using my pockets of time well: I love reading.  It entertains me, de-stresses me and sometimes, it makes me feel like I am still learning.  I sometimes read while drying my hair and I almost always read on the metro.  Occasionally, I will also read while eating my lunch.  I don't have time to sit down for an hour each evening and read - BUT by finding times throughout my day where I can read a few pages, I find a way to bring myself joy by squeezing one of my hobbies into these fringe moments. 

What if I found fringe moments for other hobbies and interests, not just reading? How would I become more productive? How would this enhance my life? There is so much I could say about this book - so I will probably do another post.  I want to figure out what activities bring my joy and satisfaction and find ways that I can squeeze them into my days and weeks.

Summer Reading List Final Summary

So, here is what my final list looks like (books I read crossed through)   I read so many good books - including a few that weren't on my list! And, sadly, my list still has some wonderful books I didn't get to read! (hopefully in the future!)  In total, I tackled 20 books in about 4 months. I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks into this list (which helped give me the time to read so much!) And, without knowing it, I turned my first trimester into a chance to use fringe hours for something I love.  I felt too poorly to do much of my normal summer activities - baseball games, outdoor movies, fun brunches, etc - but I was able to use that time to dive into some good books!! I can't wait to pick some fun fall reads! Any suggestions???

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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