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chestnutcurls: (belle)
As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew by Jen Chaney (4 stars)
This is exactly what the title says, and if you love Clueless like I do, it's a delight. I read the whole thing in a day.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (4.5 stars)
Rainbow Rowell's previous novel Fangirl (my favorite of her books) included a lot of fanfiction about a Harry Potter-esque character named Simon Snow. Later, she kept thinking about Simon's world and how she would write it as herself, not as her character Cath (does your head hurt yet?). Carry On is a funny, fresh, self-aware, totally Rainbow take on all the hero's journeys we love, centering on magician Simon Snow ("the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen"), his whip-smart best friend Penelope (in the Hermione role), and his snotty possible-vampire roommate Baz. I loved it.

The Martian by Andy Weir (5 stars)
As most people already know from having read this and/or seen the movie, the titular Martian is Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars when he's presumed dead during a mission abort. The story bounces around among him, his departed crew, and the people back on Earth trying to save him. It is fantastic. I won't lie, I was kind of crushing on Mark Watney, though some of that may be the Matt Damon influence.

December books: 3
2015 Final Total: 65. I think this is my lowest total of this decade so far. :\ It happens!

I probably won't post tomorrow, so Happy New Year, everyone! ♥
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Wildflower by Drew Barrymore (4.5 stars)
Drew Barrymore has always been one of my favorite celebrities, so I really enjoyed her stories in this memoir. There are essays about her parents and unconventional childhood, adventures with her best friends, the evolution of her career, her relationship with her husband, and her thoughts on motherhood. I think what I admire most about Drew is her ability to keep her feet on the ground AND her head in the clouds. She's a wise, talented, and fun lady.

Enough: 10 Things We Should Tell Teenage Girls by Kate Conner (3 stars)
Since this is my Year of Enough, this book title caught my attention when I saw it in the sidebar of Kate Conner's blog. Despite the fact that I'm not a teenage girl, nor do I have any in my life, I decided to check it out. Kate is funny and gracious, and I'm on board with most of what she had to say here. However, I know from her blog that her life has changed drastically since writing this book, and I'm really interested to know whether she'd give all the same advice now.

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (5 stars)
I think this is one of those novels people will either love or not get at all. It's a multilayered, uniquely told story about Sunny, a housewife with secrets who's knocking herself out trying to be normal; her brilliant scientist husband, Maxon, now an astronaut on a mission to colonize the moon; her dying mother, Emma; her autistic son, Bubber; and the Stepford-like Virginia community where they've planted themselves. These characters seem so real and think about some real stuff. One of my favorite books is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and I heard echoes of it in Shine Shine Shine, in a more immediate and individual way.

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth (4 stars)
I loved the Divergent trilogy so much that I saved these short stories for as long as I could. The first three follow Four through his Choosing Ceremony and the year or so after, providing backstory for both him and the Dauntless faction as Tris finds it when she arrives. The fourth story is mostly some events of Divergent from his perspective. You can keep your Cullens; give me Tobias Eaton any day.

November books: 4
2015 year to date: 62
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Better late than never?


Mosquitoland by David Arnold (4.5 stars)
An excellently written, sort of trippy novel about Mim, a teenager who flees her new Southern home after discovering her estranged mom is sick back in Cleveland. Her wild Greyhound journey leads her to new people and situations she couldn't have imagined, as well as truths she hasn't been ready to hear. There's a moment at the end of it where I thought it had taken a really crazy twist (if you've read it, you may know what I'm talking about), but as cool as the shock value would have been, I'm glad I just misunderstood. This story is raw and stunning enough just the way it is.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (5 stars)
Mindy Kaling is simultaneously inspiring and totally relatable. While her hilarious first book is already one of my favorites, in this one she gets even more personal and real. I loved the more detailed stories from her past, as well as how she's dealing with fame and success, and her chapters about friends' weddings and her relationship with BJ Novak almost brought me to tears. PREACH IT.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey (4.5 stars)
It took me FOREVER to finish this book due to the intensity of the topic. Philip Yancey is great at creating a safe place to wrestle with hard questions about God's goodness and fairness, while also providing different and helpful perspectives. I'll probably revisit this one.

Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli (4.5 stars)
I've been a Potterhead since 2003, but I'd never gotten around to reading this memoir/fandom history by the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron. I idly picked up my BIL's copy while visiting him and my sister. Within minutes, I had excused myself from the family card game to read, and ended up taking the book home. While the chapters about shipping wars, wizard rock, etc. are fascinating (really), at its heart this is about Anelli's journey from unsure, frustrated writer in a dead-end job to successful author, interviewer and friend of J.K. Rowling, and contributor to a phenomenon that's given joy to millions of people. Melissa, you have inspired me and given me hope.

Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg (5 stars)
As I mentioned in October's What I'm Into, Aziz Ansari teamed up with a sociologist to research and write this analysis of dating in our modern digital age and whether we really have it better or worse than those who coupled up before us. I HIGHLY recommend it whether you're single or not, and would love to discuss it with someone. I found it about 70% encouraging/validating and 30% depressing.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles (4.5 stars)
As a huge Sara Bareilles fan, I was thrilled to get approved for her memoir on Netgalley. Each of the eight chapters uses one of her songs as an epigraph and framework for a chapter of her life. I loved learning more about her childhood, progression through the music industry, creative process, and her latest project, Waitress (premiering on Broadway this month). ♥

Orange Jumpsuit: Letters to the God of Freedom by Tara Leigh Cobble (3 stars)
Tara Leigh Cobble is an author, minister, and singer/songwriter who's fairly well-known in Southern Reformed circles. This memoir revolves around her moving from her beloved New York City to South Carolina, building a life and ministry there, and falling in love with a man who can't seem to make up his mind about her. It's well-written and contains some good insights... but personally, I almost couldn't finish it because it's so steeped in specific faith culture aspects that now give me serious heebie-jeebies. However, I'm glad I pressed on, because she ends up in a spiritual place that's not too far from where I am at the moment.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (3.5 stars)
Despite the title, this gritty, intense novel is only tangentially about ballet. Theo is an up-and-coming ballerina, but the real story here is the unsolved disappearance of her best friend, Donovan, when they were thirteen. When Donovan is found and comes home four years later, Theo discovers that her secret older boyfriend from that time was his kidnapper, and has to decide how much she's willing to risk revealing. Meanwhile, she's having another secret relationship with a pianist who has a girlfriend. This isn't exactly an enjoyable read, but it's realistic, and I hurt for Theo while also relating to her struggle to believe in her own worth.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris (4 stars)
In 2004, ABC journalist Dan Harris had a live on-air panic attack while reading the news on Good Morning America. Years as an adrenaline junkie both on- and off-camera were finally taking their toll, and he knew he had to make changes. When he discovered meditation, it made such a deeply positive impact that he felt compelled to write this book about his experiences and progress. Coincidentally, I attended a "mindfulness" seminar for work a few weeks before I read this. We meditated as a group for about ten minutes, and I walked out refreshed and with a lot of thoughts about meditation and how it could relate to my (current lack of) prayer life. So I appreciated learning more about it and its benefits.

Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by Jewel Kilcher (5 stars)
I'll admit I've never been a passionate fan of Jewel's music, but after reading her honest, reflective memoir, I greatly admire her as a human being. Many music journalists have covered the bones of her early life: raised in Alaska, then lived in a van until she was discovered in LA. In this book, she fleshes out those stories and so many more, while sharing a lot of hard-earned wisdom, bravery, and encouragement. I highlighted a lot!

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (4.5 stars)
Another book I didn't expect to love so much, Shirt of Flame is (as the title implies) an extended reflection on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Heather King attempts to apply Therese's passion, courage, and commitment to the difficulties of her own life. Each of the twelve chapters ends with a prayer, which I liked so much, I might make my own calendar quoting them!

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan (3 stars)
Josie is a kid genius, skilled at blending in with various social groups, but only truly at home with her family and her two best friends. When her beloved sister Kate gets engaged to a pompous know-it-all, then refuses to listen to her objections, Josie attempts to crack the code of what love is all about. While the love story here is sweet, this is really a book about family and all the ways love changes people for better AND worse, pushing them apart and bringing them back together.

Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber (3 stars)
This fast-paced installment of the Lucy Valentine series revolves around an arsonist terrorizing Boston, and a mysterious man who can communicate with a cat. After so many heavy books on my trip, I needed to read something really light and enjoyable, and this hit the spot. I love how the relationships between all the characters grow stronger and more complex with each book. Yay for good ensemble casts!

September Total: 3
October Total: 10
2015 year to date: 58

(PS: I really need to go back to reviewing as I read. Writing 13 book reviews in a row is exhausting.)
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Other than a few Netgalley reviews, I really slacked off on book tracking and reviewing this summer. So, even though it's almost the end of September and time for this month's list, here's everything I read in July and August.


The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (5 stars)
I reviewed this here (and got a retweet from Erin Bow herself!). AMAZING.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (4 stars)
For years, Sydney has lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton, a charmer who can't stay out of trouble. After Peyton goes to prison on a DUI charge, Sydney changes schools to get a fresh start. There she meets quirky, bubbly Layla, her strong-and-silent brother Mac, and their crew of friends, all of whom draw her out and provide the love and acceptance her parents can't. This book hits all the usual Sarah Dessen sweet spots, and I think it's one of her best.

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
This short, profound book is exactly what it sounds like and has become a guide for my faltering prayer life. Though, along with Glennon Melton, I often add "WTF" to the list.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (3 stars)
A Netgalley read I never got around to reviewing officially. While well-written and suspenseful, this chronicle of a fictional school shooting in small-town Alabama is incredibly depressing. In my opinion, there wasn't enough resolution or redemption to justify the tragedy, and it felt almost exploitative. Not for me.

Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry (3 stars)
Another novel from Netgalley. Clara, an Alaskan high schooler, wants much more than this provincial liiiiife, but worry about her widowed dad and self-consciousness over her scarred face are holding her back from her New York City dreams. She's also torn between safe long-term boyfriend Elias and sexy "older man" Rhodes. I appreciated various unique aspects of this story that set it a little apart from the YA pack, but overall I just didn't love it.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (3 stars)
When Maya Van Wagenen was thirteen, feeling awkward and unpopular, she discovered a 1950s book about popularity. This memoir is basically her diary from a year spent obeying all of its rules. I give her props for her bravery, spirit, and general precociousness, but I cringed a lot. Probably because she hit on some of my own bad memories. Middle school: you couldn't pay me a million dollars to go back.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin (4.5 stars)
In the final book of the Birthright trilogy, Anya opens a successful nightclub, makes some unexpected strategic decisions, and deals with still more setbacks. I can't explain why I like these books as much as I do, other than like my experience with Tris in Divergent, I feel really comfortable in Anya's head and enjoy her thoughts. I was also 100% satisfied with the ending, which I can rarely say about YA trilogies.


Rising Strong by Brené Brown (5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (4 stars)
As an old Princess Diaries fan, I couldn't NOT read the first adult novel about Mia, which revolves around her engagement to Michael and the discovery that she has a half-sister. Meg Cabot did a great job writing a mature Mia who's still her same endearing, well-intentioned self.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (4.5 stars)
My favorite summer read of 2015! Yes, this is thinly veiled Will and Kate fanfic (with Kate recast as an American), but it's smarter, wittier, and more fun than you think... even if you, like me, aren't really into the royals. Also, the authors deserve some sort of award for the detailed alternate royal lineage they created.

On These Courts by Wayne B. Drash (3.5 stars)
The true story of Lester Middle School's road to the first of three basketball state championships, coached by Memphis native and NBA great Penny Hardaway. These events took place just a few miles from where I now live, but I never heard much about it at the time. I believe every Memphian should read this book. When I finished, I wanted to start volunteering with one of Penny's charity organizations immediately. Still looking into it.

Girl Walks into a Bar...: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch (4.5 stars)
I did not expect, and am just now owning up to, how much I LOVED this memoir. Rachel Dratch is the Everygirl contrast to the holy trinity of Fey, Poehler, and Kaling; the one who succeeds, at best, on her second try. After dating into her 40s and having a surprise baby at 44, she can speak truly and hilariously about the road less traveled by. I felt less alone after reading this. Debbie Downer, you're the best.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (3.5 stars)
In the sequel to To All The Boys I've Loved Before, the fallout from Lara Jean's illicitly mailed love letters continues. As she and Peter work on their pretend-turned-real relationship, another love letter recipient, John, comes back into her life. Fun and cute.

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong (3.5 stars)
Kristen Strong's reflections on change are authentic and helpful - as an Army wife and mom, she's an expert on the topic. Over the course of this book, through personal stories and Bible teaching, she encourages readers to embrace change and trust that God is working in and through it. She also tackles important but underdiscussed aspects like changes in friendship. I'm thankful that Girl Meets Change prompted me to think about change and my evolving (better) attitude toward it, and I have some thoughts I'd like to write about myself. I plan to go back to the book in the future and am sure it will help a lot of women. But at this moment in my life, I can't really rave about anything with an ultimately "all things work together for good" message. IT'S NOT YOU, BOOK, IT'S ME. (I didn't share this on the blog, but I was on the launch team/in a special Facebook group for this book, and all the other members thought it was LIFE-CHANGING while I was fairly meh. So I feel guilty about my lack of enthusiasm.)

Books for July: 7
Books for August: 7
2015 year to date: 45
chestnutcurls: (belle)

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
(4.5 stars)
At the L.A. estate sale of a big-name actor, set designer Emi finds a letter to his estranged daughter, with instructions about her inheritance. The letter leads Emi and her best friend to his granddaughter, Ava. I'm having a hard time summing up the rest of the plot, but I will say there's something magical about it. It's about family and destiny and following your dreams, with equal shades of Cinderella and Kathleen Kelly, and characters you'll enjoy spending time with. FYI, the main romance in this story involves two girls, but the thoughtful observations about love are universal.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars)
A unique novel that jumps around among perspectives and in time, before and after a pandemic that killed 99% of the population. Our protagonists are, in the words of the Goodreads review, "a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors," and their common thread is a rare comic book series called Station Eleven. The story is slow in parts, but the complex writing kept me hooked. Like one of my all-time faves, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, this is sci-fi where the sci-fi is just a backdrop to the real story of the heart.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas (4 stars)
In the second Veronica Mars novel, Veronica investigates an assault at the ritzy Neptune Grand (and teams up again with Leo), Keith and Cliff continue to fight Sheriff Lamb's corruption, and LOGAN IS LOGAN. Love (and LoVe)!!! I'll keep snapping these books up as long as they're cranking them out. (BTW, I haven't listened to it yet, but I've just been made aware of a new Veronica Mars re-watch podcast.)

Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings by Sheridan Voysey (3 stars)
Voysey is apparently well-known in Australia as the host of a Christian radio talk show. After he and his wife struggled for ten years to have a child, they decided to leave everything behind and move to England for a new adventure. I empathized with their grief and frustration, and was encouraged by the hope they've found in the midst of disappointment.


Those Girls by Lauren Saft
(2 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth's Divergent Trilogy by Leah Wilson (3.5 stars)
For Netgalley; review pending.


Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick
(3 stars)
This is equal parts the memoir of a never-married 40something woman, and a reflection on/biography of the five historical "awakeners" she's adopted over the course of her life - Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. At times I was fascinated, and I highlighted a lot. There aren't enough books that treat singleness as a valid, empowered life choice. Her thoughts about singleness in the context of a creative temperament are also interesting. But at the same time, I got a little weary of the navel-gazing and "Woe is me, men love me and I just want to be aloooone."

Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane (4 stars)
I won a copy of this at Cara Meredith's blog! Erin Lane examines her own history with the Church and community, and how the true meaning of belonging is changing on a large scale (especially with millennials). Very insightful.

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt (4 stars)
Holly is only 16, but her recently-late grandfather left her in charge of their family's legacy and livelihood, the Rose of Sharon wedding chapel in Vegas. He also left her a sealed letter to take to Dax, the grandson of his rival chapel owner next door. After discovering her chapel is in danger of foreclosure, Holly throws herself into saving it, and also finds herself falling in love with the enemy. It's a fun, warmhearted story that touches on some serious issues. However, I have to admit I didn't love Dax like I was clearly supposed to. Something about him just rubbed me the wrong way.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (4.5 stars)
Reagan is hitting the road on tour with her megastar best friend, Taylor Swift Lilah Montgomery, known to her as Dee. She and Dee are both excited to leave recent heartbreaks behind and embark together on a summer of fun and distraction. When a PR crisis results in clean-cut singer Matt Finch crashing their party, sparks fly between him and bad-girl Reagan, but she struggles to keep him at a distance. As the summer goes on, both girls learn to let love in again. Despite the celebrity setting of this book, it felt really authentic, and I loved that the girls' solid friendship is the real center of the story.

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton (5 stars)
Glennon Melton is becoming one of my present-day heroes. She's funny, passionate, humble, grace-filled, and REAL. I shed many tears over this book.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach (4.5 stars)
The lives of four disparate high-school seniors in Seattle are thrown into chaos as an asteroid approaches with a 66.6% chance of annihilating the Earth. It's The Breakfast Club meets Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As you might expect, some bleak and rough stuff happens, but there's also humor and hope and great insights. So good. (Note: I have a serious thing for stories about people who only have a short time to live (or think they do), so they start doing everything they've always wanted to do, stop being polite, and start getting real. The psychological implications of this are not lost on me.)

Total for April, May, and June: 12
2015 year to date (halfway point!): 31

And now I'm almost up to date on posting book stuff! GOLD STAR FOR ME!!!
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (4.5 stars)
I'd never read Micha Boyett's blog or poetry until I read this memoir, but she's a kindred spirit. Having grown up planning to do Great Things For God, she now struggles deeply with whether her small life as a wife and mom is Enough. Inspired by the practices of Benedictine monks, she works on applying their philosophies to her everyday life and faith. At first I was a little wary that this might be a Mom Book I couldn't relate to, but that was not the case at all. Boyett is a fantastic writer and her words will refresh your soul.

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley by Kim Cross (3.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems by Rhoda Janzen (4 stars)
I haven't read Janzen's first memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, but I still tracked with this second installment. It's exactly what the title indicates. Practical and intellectual by nurture and trade (she's a professor), Janzen finds herself dating a Pentecostal man's man and falling in love both with him and his church community. Their support becomes even more important when she finds out she has breast cancer. This is a weird thing to say, but I feel like she strikes the perfect attitude about having cancer - positive yet realistic. Overall I related to and was inspired by her guarded openness and willingness to experience new things.

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (3 stars)
I'm still not sure what to make of this novel. It's straight-up magical realism, so if you can't suspend your disbelief and embrace the hippie woo-woo, you're not going to like it. But it is a beautifully written story of twins, Noah and Jude, who've become estranged due to family tragedy and misunderstandings. Both are artists, and I loved all the stuff about art and the creative process.

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg (5 stars)
It took me almost a month to read Soul Keeping because it was so profound. John Ortberg expounds on the importance of the soul to every aspect of our existence. Much of the wisdom he shares comes from his longtime mentor, Dallas Willard, who died in 2013. I really needed this book and will revisit it in the future.

UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin (3 stars)
As a member of the Full House generation, I couldn't resist checking out this memoir by Stephanie Tanner herself, Jodie Sweetin. It wasn't what I expected. She does share some fun gossip about the show, but her story centers on her nearly-lifelong cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. Having begun a demanding acting career at a very young age, Sweetin never felt like she got to be a kid or figure out who she really was. When she had her first drink in high school, it gave her the sense of confidence and identity she craved, and several long, destructive benders followed. But after two marriages and a few rounds of rehab, she's now a mom and is determined to stay sober for her daughter. This book made me sad, both for her and for all those who struggle with severe addictions. It's such a hard road to walk.

Books for March: 6
2015 year to date: 19
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (4.5 stars)
Things are finally sort of normal for Kat, Hale, and their band of teenage thieves after they've pulled off two of the greatest heists of the century. Then Hale's grandmother dies suddenly and leaves the family's vast business empire not to his father, but to him. When the family butler smells a rat and hires Kat to investigate, she's torn between finding the truth for Hale's own good, and protecting her still-new relationship with him. These books are definitely exciting, but I love them most for their picture of what real family is, wherever you might find it.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (4 stars)
This novel about a group of friends from college is more like a collection of interwoven short stories. Each woman has her turn in the spotlight: Isabella, the romantic who starts over in a new career; Abby, the child of hippie parents, who falls in love with a classic prep; Lauren, whose "temporary" waitressing job drags on for years; Mary, who finds a great man with a seriously overbearing mother. These stories are funny, touching, and relatable, and Jennifer Close's prose is just a joy to read.

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (4 stars)
In a small Massachusetts town in 1943, three best friends marry three men who are about to go off to war. By the end of the war, all of their lives are in pieces. This novel is about how they rebuild (or not) over the next two decades. I felt like Feldman tried to cover too much at times, which came off a little forced and rushed (especially at the end), but overall, the story is well-done.

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (3.5 stars)
Another entry in the "Next Fault In Our Stars" sweepstakes, this YA novel follows Amy, a bright, funny girl with cerebral palsy, and Matthew, a shy guy with OCD, through their senior year of high school and beginning of college. To help her learn about making friends, Amy requests peer aides for her senior year instead of the adults who have always helped her through her daily tasks. She specifically requests Matthew, by whom she's been intrigued since he challenged her overly-sunny attitude the previous year. Soon their relationship starts taking turns that surprise them both. While some of the plot twists were pretty crazy (I actually saw the main one coming and thought, "Oh, please don't go there"), I liked Amy, Matthew, and their friends, and appreciated a glimpse into the lives of people dealing with these difficulties.

Books for February: 4
2015 year to date: 13
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland (4.5 stars)
I read this for the Red Couch Book Club, although too slowly/late to participate in discussions (as usual). If you're at all interested in creating real unity within and across the Church, this is a must-read. There is a LOT of academic social psychology in this book, but it's tempered by Christena's great wit and earthiness. I applaud her for addressing important truths that many Christians are too uncomfortable to talk about, and providing practical solutions.

Magnolia by Kristi Cook (4 stars)
An impulse buy/Kindle Daily Deal that I ended up reading in one sitting. Jemma and Ryder have grown up together, the perfectly-matched progeny of two Southern families desperate to unite in marriage. Unfortunately, for all of high school, they've hated each other. As Jemma secretly considers a future away from small-town Mississippi, family crises and a hurricane force her and Ryder to confront their past, and their feelings. This novel is set about an hour away from here, and I'm no country girl, but nothing seemed out of place to me. I liked it a lot. Would make a great ABC Family movie.

Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston (4 stars)
After I heard Kristen Johnston on Aisha Tyler's Girl on Guy podcast, I decided to look up her memoir. Brought up in the public eye in a very proper family, Kristen is now brutally honest about the extent of her drug and alcohol addiction and what led her there. In 2007, she was hospitalized in London and nearly died after her stomach literally exploded. It took an infection and rehospitalization for her to realize she was killing herself and decide to change her life. She is insightful, funny, and has the special wisdom of someone who's well acquainted with rock bottom. Guts is not for the faint of heart, but I couldn't put it down.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (4 stars)
When Lilac and Tarver meet aboard a luxury spaceship, they don't expect their acquaintance to last long. Tarver is a decorated soldier and Lilac is the protected daughter of a powerful businessman. Then the ship crashes into a mysteriously abandoned planet, and they're the only survivors. I see why people call this book "Titanic in space", but it has some Firefly elements too. The characters and worldbuilding are solid.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt (5 stars)
After discovering her boyfriend's secret online life and online wife, Mallory decides to ditch technology and build a new life around a to-do list that her accomplished grandma wrote in 1962: Join pep club. Sew a homecoming dress. Throw a soiree. Find a steady. With the help of her sister Ginnie, she pursues these goals while avoiding anything not 1962-authentic. In the process, she digs up shocking family secrets, finds love in unexpected places, and learns that life in any decade has its pitfalls. This story rang so true and made me happy. When deciding how to rate it, I asked myself, "Did I enjoy this as much as a Rainbow Rowell book?" I did. So, five stars.

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger* (3 stars)
Audra is a sylph, with power over the wind. For years she's been in hiding, secretly watching over Vane, the orphaned heir of the lost Westerly line. When she accidentally reveals herself, she's forced to tell Vane what he is and train him for the battle that's now coming. I mainly picked this up because weather, but overall I'm a little weary of the whole secret-cosmic-powers storyline. I did like the genderswapping here, though.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales* (4 stars)
Elise has always failed at everything she tries, and now she's even failed at killing herself. In the aftermath, she takes to wandering the neighborhood at night and discovers an underground club, with friendly regulars who welcome her in no questions asked. Drawn in by the charismatic DJ, Char, she falls in love not with him, but with the music. This is a real, solid story of a girl coming into her own. Good stuff.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith (4 stars)
An enjoyable retrospective on The Nester's 13 different homes and what each of them taught her, along with general philosophical thoughts about the concept of home. I haven't kept up with her blog in a while, but I still love how warm and encouraging she is. This book was a good reminder to let myself think outside the box decor-wise and be willing to make some mistakes.

The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh (4 stars)
I love Sheila Walsh and am encouraged by everything she writes. This book focuses on God's promises, each chapter focusing on a specific fear or concern. I read it slowly, usually right before bed so I'd have some quiet time to think about it. It's a good one to have around for future reference.

Books for January/2015 year to date: 9

* = These two books were actually read in December, but got lost on Goodreads because I didn't add a finish date. So I'm counting them now!
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (3.5 stars)
A graphic memoir mostly taken from Brosh's Hyperbole and Half blog, including hilarious classics like "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving" and her very honest two-part post about depression. (My personal favorite, "Sneaky Hate Spiral," didn't make it into the book.)

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (4 stars)
Franny is a struggling young actress in NYC in the 1990s. With only six months left until her self-imposed deadline to make it big, she's under a lot of pressure, but all her hopeful career turns are dead ends. Among her assets: a rogue sense of humor, a dayplanner given to her by her loving dad, and two roommates, best friend Jane and sci-fi writer Dan. I really enjoyed this - and love that Franny has curly hair. Styling this mess in the 90s was NOT EASY.

The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion (4.5 stars)
Jeff Manion is a pastor who's been through a lot in both his career and his personal life. Using the Israelites' wandering in the desert as a framework, he writes frankly and encouragingly about long desert periods in our lives, and the difference between "grumbling" against God and honestly bringing our grief and frustration to Him, while maintaining that he hasn't mastered any of this himself. I didn't expect to get so much out of this book, but it helped me tremendously. Highly recommended for anyone losing hope or feeling overwhelmed.

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (4.5 stars)
For several years, quiet Emily has been happy to cruise in the shadow of her free-spirited best friend, Sloane. Then Sloane suddenly disappears, leaving her with nothing but a list of daring tasks to complete over the summer. As Emily works her way down the list, a fun new life starts to unfold... but where did her best friend go?

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (4.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Thrashing About with God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything by Mandy Steward (5 stars)
This book has been sitting in the to-read pile next to my bed for at least a year, and I'm glad, because it was meant for me right now. In these reflective essays (many taken from her blog, which I haven't yet read), Mandy discusses her faith burnout after a lifetime in the Church. In a sense, she tore down the scaffolding of her relationship with God and started over from scratch - terrified, but trusting that God's love was big enough to hold her as she found a new way. While I'm not in exactly the same place she was, we're on the same page about a lot of things (especially the grace to "let" everyone have a different path), and her words validated things I've learned. I seriously stopped highlighting in the third chapter because I was highlighting everything. If you have a "Wholehearted library" of sorts like I do, this is a worthy addition.

Books for December: 6
2014 FINAL TOTAL: 75!!! I didn't really set a goal, but 75 is a respectable number. Yay!
chestnutcurls: (belle)
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown (5 stars)
More solid advice from my life guru. In fact, I already need to read this again.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff (3.5 stars)
A series of essays about love and faith, most involving a story from Bob Goff's life or one of his friends'. Bob encourages others to see life as he does: totally without limits. While he has a lot of wisdom and inspiration to share, his pride in ignoring social and practical boundaries rubbed me the wrong way at times. In fact, some of his "capers" bordered on rude. I also wondered how his advice might sound to someone trapped in a difficult situation without the resources he has. Still, I enjoyed it, and the good parts are really good.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (4 stars)
The final installment of the trilogy that began with Anna and the French Kiss. Isla has been secretly in love with Josh, St. Clair's best friend, since their freshman year at the School of America in Paris. After a chance meeting in NYC while they're both home for the summer, they finally connect for real as their senior year begins. Their relationship is everything Isla dreamed of, but she can't seem to shake her insecurity - about Josh, her inability to form real friendships, and her uncertain future after graduation. Although the title pretty much gives the ending away, this story takes plenty of turns. Nothing compares to the original Anna, but I related to Isla the most of Perkins' heroines (and definitely liked her more than Lola).

Yes Please by Amy Poehler (5 stars)
If you're wondering, Yes Please is as good as Tina Fey's Bossypants and maybe even better. This half of the best comedy duo of our time also has plenty of insights and hilarious stories to share. You'll get lots of info about Amy's childhood and amazing family, the start of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and Parks & Rec; inspiring words about womanhood and living authentically; and funny, relatable essays (I especially loved the one about things people ask you after your divorce). Fantastic.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
Georgie, a TV comedy writer, has finally gotten her big break. She and Seth, her best friend/writing partner, only have a few days to write the show they've been dreaming up since college. Unfortunately, it's Christmas. After Georgie sends her husband Neal and their two daughters off to Omaha without her, she realizes how disconnected she and Neal have become - and that he might not have left her just for the holidays. When she calls him from an old phone at her mom's house, she reaches Neal fifteen years in the past... during the weekend between their breakup and his proposal. Unsure if she's supposed to change the past or make it happen, all she knows is that she loves Neal then and now, and is ready to do whatever it takes to get him back. I didn't love Landline quite as much as Fangirl or Attachments, but it's classic Rainbow Rowell - funny, hopeful, and REAL. I read it in one night!

24/6: A Prescription for a Happier, Healthier Life by Matthew Sleeth (4 stars)
An engaging examination of the importance of the Sabbath, and how ignoring it is affecting us individually and as a society. It wasn't a coincidence that I read this at the start of a month that ended with me realizing I'm burned out. I've failed at intentional Sabbath-keeping for years. Anyway, Sleeth is an experienced ER doctor who applies lots of his war stories to the subject of rest. Good stuff.

Books for November: 6
2014 year to date: 69
chestnutcurls: (belle)
I forgot to cross-post this from the blog!

Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider (4 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet by Jenifer Ringer (3 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth (4.5 stars overall)
I'm one of the last bookworms I know to read this trilogy - I waited until it was finished. As I said yesterday, I was hooked and tore through all three books in under a week. If you somehow haven't heard about Divergent, it's set in a dystopian future where everyone is divided into factions according to their dominant personality trait: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). When people turn sixteen, they must make an irrevocable decision either to commit to the faction in which they were raised, or transfer to another one. Abnegation-born Tris loves her family, but feels too restless for her faction's serene, sacrificial ways. When she takes an aptitude test before her Choosing Day, she finds out that she's Divergent - well suited for more than one faction - and that she can never reveal this truth to anyone. This is all I knew going into the books and I think it was better that way, so I'll stop summarizing here.

The Divergent trilogy is fantastic. It inspired, challenged, and moved me. I loved the worldbuilding, and I think Tris is neck-and-neck with Katniss and Hermione for the best YA heroine of the century so far. The only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars was... many of the events of Allegiant. Aside from the thing that everyone was angry about, I felt cheated and thrown for a loop by a couple of other things. But somehow it didn't ruin the whole story for me.

Although I'm excited for the movie, I'm a little bummed now that they're making movies, because I think this would have worked much better as a TV series. Oh well.

Books for February: 5
2014 year to date: 11
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw (2.5 stars)
This was a Netgalley, so a separate review is coming soon. For now, I'll say that while there was some good information here, I found the delivery very dry and repetitive.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares (4 stars)
I reviewed this here. Note: I finished it almost three weeks ago and am still thinking about it and some of the questions it raises.

Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Live I Didn't Expect by Connally Gilliam (4 stars)
A fantastic memoir/advice-type book about the struggles of "later," unintentional single life. I've never seen or heard some of these topics addressed before. The chapter about fragmentation, especially, filled me with relief that this is A Thing and not my own personal neurosis. She defines it so much better than I've been able to thus far. While her tone can be a little prim, I really admire her honesty, insightfulness, and refusal to place herself above her readers. If you want to understand what single Christians are facing today, read this!

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (4 stars)
For years, Samantha has been fascinated with the large Garrett family next door. Their bustling, happy home couldn't be more different from the silent mansion she lives in, with her older sister graduated and her emotionally unavailable senator mother campaigning for re-election. But then Jase Garrett appears on her balcony, and suddenly her days of spectating are over. Although Jase is pretty dreamy, this isn't just a love story. It's about family and the costs of doing the right thing.

Stitches: a handbook on meaning, hope, and repair by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
This was a great, tone-setting first book of 2014! It's not very long, but every sentence is a gem - just classic Anne Lamott talking about hope and life and stuff.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (4 stars)
I'm thankful Kathy gave me this novel for Christmas, because somehow, I had never heard of it. Ezra was a star athlete, class president, and general ruler of the school at the end of his junior year. Then his wrist and knee were shattered in a hit-and-run car accident. As senior year begins, he knows he can't go back to his old life, but has no idea who he's supposed to be. Then he reconnects with his less-popular childhood best friend and his fellow debate team members, including the witty and mysterious Cassidy. This is a funny, real, and profound novel with John Green overtones. It's about coming out from behind your mask and accepting who you've been all along.

Books for January/2014 year to date: 6
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)

Zero-Budget Christmas: The Almost Entirely True Story of Our Quest to Do Our Christmas Shopping Without Spending Any Money by Jason Anderson (2 stars)
I was intrigued by this short book when I saw it for a dollar on Amazon. It's exactly what the title says. Jason Anderson's writing is funny and Jon Acuff-esque, he and his wife sound like nice people, and their ideas are good. If saving money is new to you, this book will be helpful. But if you're already a bargain hunter (like me), you probably won't find any new information here.

The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass by Mandy Hale (3 stars)
After a bad breakup, Mandy Hale couldn't find any books or encouragement for single women. So she founded her own website/ministry, The Single Woman, and wrote this book. I like her for that, and am in FULL support of her overall message! But while the book had some good nuggets of wisdom, it was a little cutesy and Oprah-motivational for me (the many rhyming couplets made me feel like I was back in the Pentecostal church where I grew up). If that doesn't bother you, you will love this!

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles (4.5 stars)
Sara Miles was a very unlikely candidate to become a Christian. But one day, as she walked past a service at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in San Francisco, she felt an inexplicable urge to go in. When she took the Eucharist, she knew her life had changed forever. Within a year, compelled by Jesus' command to "feed my sheep," she had started a food pantry at the church that provided groceries to hundreds weekly. I was fascinated, inspired, and convicted by this memoir. I haven't been part of a Eucharist-focused denomination, so I've never thought much about Jesus as nourishment. I hope these insights will stick with me.

PS - I later discovered that Sara is (I think) the daughter of Betty Miles, who wrote YA before it was YA, including a lesser-known favorite of mine, The Real Me. It was about a teenage girl in the 1960s or 70s who fought The Man for permission to deliver newspapers and play sports.

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen (4 stars)
Cate and Renee are NYC roommates and co-workers at an InStyle-like women's magazine. Cate has just landed an editorship and has to prove herself, while Renee is vying for a beauty editor position and struggling to lose weight so she can look the part. They're just beginning to establish a real friendship when Abby, the troubled sister of a colleague, comes into their lives. Each woman is hiding a lot of trauma and at least one big secret. More than anything, this novel is about how they learn to trust each other. There is a love interest (a good one), but the women's friendship is definitely the focus of the story, and I love that.

Books for December: 4
2013 FINAL TOTAL: 68

Not my highest annual total, but I read a lot of quality books this year, and Quality Over Quantity is slowly becoming one of my rules for life.

See you in 2014! :)
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Thin Space by Jody Casella (5 stars)
Marsh Windsor survived the car accident that killed his twin brother. Before her own death, his elderly neighbor taught him about "thin spaces," places where the barrier between our world and the afterworld are thinner, enabling people to visit with the dead. Racked with guilt and grief, Marsh goes everywhere – including school – barefoot in hopes of literally stumbling upon a thin space. His real objective is to get into the house where the old lady promised to create one. Unfortunately, his new neighbor, Maddie, makes those efforts difficult. As he slowly lets her in on his plans, he is forced closer and closer to everything he's been trying to forget. There's much more going on in this story than meets the eye. If you read it, please let me know so we can discuss!!

With a Little Luck by Caprice Crane (4 stars)
Berry, a classic-rock DJ in LA, has lived her entire life according to the superstitious teachings of her gambling-addicted father. When she meets Ryan, she's just finished her second bad relationship in a row... and bad things always happen in threes. So their love is doomed. But as their relationship progresses, Berry begins to question her philosophies and her screwed-up, if loving, family dynamics. This novel is classic Caprice Crane, which means it's funny, blunt, touching, and true all at the same time. It took me a while to get into it because Berry's superstitions are so intense as to be off-putting, but that's all part of the plan.

Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (5 stars)
This novel is set in the same postapocalyptic world as For Darkness Shows the Stars, but in a very different place - on two luxurious island nations where technology is embraced and the Reduction has been overcome by genetic engineering. Persis Blake, heiress to an estate and best friend of the princess of Albion, wears airheaded beauty as a disguise. She's actually the Wild Poppy, a notorious spy and enemy of the cruel revolution happening in Galatea. When Justen Helo, a famous scientist close to the Galatean throne, rescues her on a mission gone bad, things get a lot more complicated. So complicated that I can't explain any further. The important thing is that I LOVED this book and it is well worth your time. :)

When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman (5 stars)
I've never even visited Addie Zierman's blog, but after reading this memoir, I'm ready to declare her the voice of my generation. If you grew up an evangelical Christian or want to understand someone who did, you need to read this ASAP. It's a masterful depiction of late 90s evangelical culture that manages to be both honest and respectful.

Books for November: 4
2013 year to date: 64
chestnutcurls: (lj)
I just unfriended a bunch of people I never knew well and/or who haven't posted or interacted here in a LONG, long time. If you someday return to LJ and want to be added back, leave a comment!

You can also find me at my public blog, Don't Stop Believing.

Thanks! :)
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Becoming Myself: A Woman's Journey of Transformation by Stasi Eldredge (4 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee (5 stars)
Torn arrived on my doorstep the same day DOMA and Prop 8 were repealed. Talk about timely. From page one, I was riveted. By sharing his own story bravely and honestly, Justin Lee stands as proof that you can be gay AND a Christian. In the context of his personal journey, he examines evangelical "ex-gay" programs, the difference between orientation and behavior, the problem with "love the sinner, hate the sin," the real meat of what the Bible says on these issues, and much more. I have reservations about some of his conclusions, and think there's more to this Biblically than just the verses that speak directly about homosexuality. However, I feel a growing compassion for gay people of all faiths and non-faiths, and have wished for a way for gays and Christians to be on the same "side." This book points us toward that way.

Most of all, I related to Justin's heart as he struggled to reconcile his unwanted homosexuality with his devout faith. While I'm straight as can be, I went through a similar emotional and spiritual process when I got divorced. I consumed every Christian book, sermon, and Biblical commentary I could get my hands on about the topic, ashamed of this new label that I didn't ask for and had actively fought, afraid that I was derailing my life and my testimony. Because of that common experience, I feel certain that whether you agree with Justin or not, he's coming from a place of wanting to honor God, even if it costs him. Bottom line, read this book. I don't think it's hyperbole to say (along with the book) that the future of the American Church partly rests on how we respond to this issue. It's not going away anytime soon.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (3 stars)
Carmen is an internationally known violinist competing for the Guarneri prize, the most prestigious honor in her field. Her mother, a former opera singer whose promising career was cut short, has molded and managed her entire life to prepare her for this moment. Now, at 18, Carmen is suddenly aware that she's just a passive participant in her own life and career. Her realizations are complicated further when she falls in love with her competition, Jeremy King, a virtuoso just like her. I flew through this novel and think any professional musician would love it.

Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton (5 stars)
A selection from my writing class, this book is a documented year in the life of a poet living alone in a New England country house in the 1960s. It's mostly her musings about the craft of writing, the problems and blessings of being a creative person and/or a single homeowner, and anecdotes about her garden and animals. As others have noted, she also expresses views that were pretty brave and radical for the time. For better or worse, I often felt like Sarton was describing my own life. Something resonated with me on every single page. I give this five stars not because it's brilliant (though it often is), but for my own personal connection with it at this particular time. It encouraged and inspired me while also warning me away from some things I don't want to become. (PS – Despite this glowing review, I was really traumatized by what happened to the farm cats at the end of the book. It was a terrible twist ending!)

Books for July: 4
2013 year to date: 41
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Sorry this is late!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (5 stars)
An amazing exploration of what it means to be introverted in an extrovert-oriented culture. An introvert herself, Susan Cain researches how the outgoing, "hail-fellow-well-met" salesman personality became the American ideal, and how deeply it permeates our society. She interviews successful introverts from all walks of life, including many who have learned to act like extroverts for their professional and social survival. Throughout the book, she affirms the value of introverts and encourages parents, bosses, and friends to stop trying to force the introverts in their lives into an extroverted mold. This book blew my mind. I never fully realized how much I've been discriminated against as an introvert, or how often people have tried to "fix" me - and I'm pretty close to the middle of the I/E spectrum. I can understand why some extroverts have been offended by this book, but I don't see it as an attack on extroversion at all. It's just an attempt to balance the scales and remind everyone that there's more than one way to be.

The Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements (3 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had To Ask by Jancee Dunn (5 stars)
While But Enough About Me focused mostly on Jancee Dunn's career as a rock journalist and VJ, this memoir is about her lovable, tight-knit, crazy family (and friends). Stories include a trip with her Southern mother to Savannah, her siblings' plot to revisit their childhood home (long since inhabited by another family), how Dunn announced her surprise pregnancy to her husband (with her whole family as an audience), and the titular story of her mother getting a tattoo. She also transcribes several ordinary but hilarious conversations with her best friend, Julie, who calls her at the same time every morning. It reminded me of the daily calls I used to have with my sister as we both drove home from work. Anyway, this book is total comedy comfort reading.

This Girl by Colleen Hoover (3 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu (4 stars)
Most Americans remember Dominique Moceanu as the youngest member of the Magnificent Seven women's gymnastics team that won gold in Atlanta in 1996. Her talent and determination caught everyone's attention. But behind that facade, she was enduring constant abuse at the hands of her father and coaches, under a level of stress no child should have to experience. Now an adult, happily married to another gymnast and a mother of two, Dominique is clearly coming from a healthier, more confident place. She tells her story honestly, without sugarcoating past events OR demonizing those who harmed her. That's a hard line to walk. Especially when she finds out, shortly before the birth of her first child, that she has another sister whom she never knew existed. Some reviewers are skeptical whether a lot of these events really happened, but sadly, it all seems pretty believable to me.

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park (and companion novella, Flat-Out Matt) (4 stars)
When Julie arrives in Boston for her freshman year of college, her apartment rental turns out to be a scam. So her mother's former roommate takes her in, and she's suddenly part of their unusual family: kind, geeky, and exasperating MIT student Matt, precocious and quirky preteen Celeste... and a life-sized cutout of their adored older brother, Finn, who is away on a long international trip. As Julie grows closer to Matt and Celeste, she has a growing certainty that something's very wrong in their household. I don't want to say much more about the plot, but suffice to say I read the entire book in one night. LOVED IT!!! Aside: Even though it's clear in the book that Julie is from Ohio, I kept imagining her as British. I finally realized that her "voice" reminded me a LOT of British-American blogger Holly of Nothing But Bonfires.

The God of the Mundane by Matt B. Redmond (4 stars)
In this short and excellent book, former pastor Matt Redmond debunks the myth that our lives don't count unless we're doing Something Big for God. He observes that our celebrity-worshiping, success-oriented, everyone-is-special culture has fully assimilated into the Church. I especially liked his point that, while the Church urges us to live big, daring lives like the apostles, the Bible never actually commands such a thing. Instead, it encourages Christians to aspire to a quiet life, doing the work God has put to our hands. While this book is a little repetitive considering its length, a lot of the statements in it profoundly encouraged me. I really need to take its message to heart.

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (3.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (2.5 stars)
Ten years after the events of The Devil Wears Prada, former enemies Andy and Emily are best friends and co-founders of a successful high-end wedding magazine, The Plunge. Andy has just married the handsome, charming heir to a media empire. Other than her mother-in-law's disapproval of the marriage, her life is going great, and her nightmarish year working for Miranda Priestly is far in the past. Then Andy gets several unexpected surprises, and Miranda makes an offer to buy The Plunge that the girls can't refuse. I was really excited for this novel, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Andy is a sympathetic character, but I somehow expected a more lighthearted plot. A lot of what happens in the story is disappointing and sad.

Books for June: 9 (woo hoo!)
2013 year to date: 37
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
This was a quality month!

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (4.5 stars)
Confession: I've never read the original Peter Pan, and the Disney movie wasn't my fave growing up. But I was intrigued by this serious take on Tiger Lily, the native Neverlander girl who's a peripheral character in Peter's story. Tiger Lily is the adopted daughter of the tribe's shaman, Tik Tok. Her exceptional strength, skill, and quiet ways make her an outsider to most of the tribe, except for her two best friends and of course her father. At fifteen, she learns that she's been promised to the most horrible man in the village and must marry him at the end of the hot season. Shortly thereafter, she wanders into the forbidden forest and meets the infamous Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. What follows is a heartbreaking story of first love (and so much more). Anderson de-cartoons these familiar characters and Neverland itself. This book far exceeded my expectations and has a quiet truth and sadness about it that will stick with me for a long time. I should also mention that the story is narrated by Tinker Bell, who, as a mute but highly empathic fairy, can sense the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.

Emotional Vampires at Work: Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein (4.5 stars)
I read this for Netgalley and just finished it, so it'll have its own post next week. Preview: it's fascinating and very helpful for dealing with people everywhere, not only at work.

But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous by Jancee Dunn (5 stars)
I already liked Jancee Dunn after reading her debut novel, Don't You Forget About Me. Now that I've backtracked to her 2006 memoir, I see her as a kindred spirit. She engagingly describes the high points of her life, starting with her childhood, progressing through her years at Rolling Stone and as one of the first VJs on MTV2. The chapters are interspersed with pieces about some of her favorite celebrity interviews, all VERY boldfaced names. As the title suggests, Dunn is totally unpretentious despite her many brushes with rock and roll fame. She's a crafty, documentary-watching homebody who counts her quirky parents and sisters as her best friends. She's also naturally hilarious - I hadn't LOLed so much at a book since Bossypants. If you like music or journalism or any story told by a likeable person, this is totally worth a read. I'm glad I bought it so I can revisit my favorite parts.

Reclaiming Your Heart: A Journey Back to Laughing, Loving and Living by Denise Hildreth Jones (4 stars)
Denise Hildreth Jones' latest book focuses on the hard things in life that shut down our hearts, and the crucial importance of fighting to keep our hearts open and alive in a difficult world. Each chapter describes a different type of shut-down heart - angry, controlling, disappointed, and fearful among them - how it got that way, and how to revive it. As with all of DHJ's writings (she and I have similar histories), this was very timely and applicable to me. I could benefit from a more in-depth study!

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (4 stars)
Three years ago, Hudson Avery, rising figure skating star, gave up the ultimate big break after discovering that her dad was cheating on her mom. Since her parents split, she's helped her mom at their family diner, creating one fantastic cupcake after another and trying to forget the old days. Then a letter arrives inviting her to a skating competition with a huge scholarship prize. Seizing her only chance to get out of her dead-end small town, she starts skating again in secret. But she's found out by Will, captain of the hockey team, and his friend Josh. The team hasn't had a winning record in years and is facing disbandment, and they want her to share her ice-queen secrets with their players. As she works to regain what she's lost in the midst of her current crazy life, Hudson finds that what she thought she wanted may not be what's right for her after all. This book felt really real. I especially enjoyed the sweet relationship between Hudson and her younger brother. And Josh is pretty dreamy. :)

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (5 stars)
The continuing tale of Anya Balanchine, illegal-chocolate heiress and mafia daughter, trying to keep herself and her loved ones alive in dystopian 2082 New York. In this second novel, she's forced to flee to Mexico as a fugitive, where she takes refuge on a cacao farm and learns about the family business. Meanwhile, back home, more unexpected tragedies and surprises are set into motion. I've read reviews complaining that "not enough happens" in this series, but not only do I disagree, I also think the quieter times we spend with Anya and the other characters are the best parts. To me there's a definite Dickensian vibe. Can't wait for the final installment!

Books for May: 6
2013 year to date: 28
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives by Becky Aikman (5 stars)
I cannot say enough about this memoir - I've wanted to give it its own post. I only wish I had read it sooner. A few years after her husband died, journalist Becky Aikman gathered five other widows together to form an optimistic, forward-thinking support group - no Five Stages of Grief allowed. This is the story of their first year together, along with interesting research about grief, recovery, and relationships. The best way to describe my feelings about this book is that I want to give it a big hug. While I was divorced and not widowed, certain aspects of my situation have caused me to relate more to widows than other divorced women. Like Aikman, I've felt like a misfit among misfits as I've rebuilt my life. Reading these brave ladies' stories and being a virtual party to their conversations made me feel 100% less alone. It reassured and encouraged me SO MUCH, and I'm so thankful for people willing to share their stories.

At Least You're In Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell (4 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols (3 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
If you loved Anna Godbersen's Victorian Luxe series, you will love her new series set in the eleventh hour of the Roaring 20s. Cordelia and Letty, two best friends from small-town Ohio, run away to NYC in the summer of 1929. Though they expect to find their fortunes together, they're quickly separated. Letty becomes a cigarette girl in a speakeasy on her way to stardom. Cordelia finds her long-lost father (a wealthy gangster), and a new friend in the spoiled but lovable Astrid. Nothing goes as expected for any of the three girls. The prologue declares that by the end of the series, one of them will be married, one will be a star, and one will be dead. So I'm committed to the ride. :)

Books for April: 4
2013 year to date: 22
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I don't know how to sum up this marvelous conclusion to The Infernal Devices without spoiling anything. It's moving, surprising, and epic in the truest sense. As soon as I finished, I wanted to re-read the modern-day Mortal Instruments series to find all the cross-references which will now have much greater meaning. It takes special talent to build a strong, believable universe that crosses generations, and make all the pieces fit. Fantastic.

At Least You're In Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life by Jennifer Criswell
Netgalley read; review to come later this week. Sorry, I'm a little behind on things. I will say that I really liked this!

You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
Although there are a few great nuggets in this book for writers, I was largely underwhelmed by it. It's a lot more of the hustle-hustle talk I've grown weary of. On the plus side, I'm already doing a lot of the things he recommends, so that was kind of reassuring. I give this book three stars only for Goins' observation that "you can't react and create at the same time," which really resonated with me. Other than that, go read Bird by Bird or something. :)

Save The Date by Jenny B. Jones
Lucy, the owner of a Charleston nonprofit for homeless young women, is in trouble. Her main source of funding has evaporated, and she's weeks from having to turn her girls back out onto the streets. When she goes to a benefit to appeal to donors, she runs into Alex, a former classmate turned ex-NFL star, notorious playboy, and candidate for Congress. Unbeknownst to her, Alex's campaign is floundering and he needs something to improve his public image. He makes Lucy an offer she (seriously) can't refuse: pose as his fiancee until the campaign is over, and he'll save her girls' home. What follows is enjoyably predictable, but also has some surprises thrown in. I can see why many of my friends love this book. It would be a great movie, and Reese Witherspoon would make a perfect Lucy (with a few extra pounds). :)

Bread & Wine: Finding Community and Life Around The Table by Shauna Niequist
Loved this and reviewed it at my blog.

Books for March: 5
2013 year to date: 18

December 2015

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