Tuesday, October 2, 2018

September 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

September News 

I miss checking in here more often and talking books with you all, but scaling back to monthly overview posts has definitely been the right choice for this moment in my life. My time is so limited these days and when I do have down time, I'm much more inclined to open a book or turn on some mindless tv than I am to put more creative energy out into the world.


September went so quickly. In part because Kevin was traveling a lot and in part because Hurricane Florence seemed to dominate existence here in the Carolinas for weeks. My parents live in Wilmington, so our family had a direct stake in a natural disaster for the first time. I was talking to my mom last night and she commented how they will never view disasters like this the same again now that they have seen it in their city. Thankfully, their house and property came through largely unscathed. It feels like a miracle in comparison to the devastation around them.

Originally, the storm was supposed to hit our area pretty badly. Kevin was actually out of town on work travel for the duration of the storm, so I hunkered down on my own. We didn't end up getting hit really at all except for one very rainy day. But, I enjoyed a quiet weekend at home with lots of books and a binge viewing of the last five Harry Potter movies. It wasn't the most exciting weekend and I was pretty ready for some human interaction at the end of it, but it was a nice break from reality. Plus, I got some great reading in!

Friday, August 31, 2018

August 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

August News 

Hello, friends! It feels like it's been so long. It's been a whole month since I last posted. I ended July with a resolution to find more balance in my life and part of that necessitated putting the blog on hold for a while. I'm not writing reviews of each book I read any longer, but I am going to continue these monthly posts. I love this community too much to abandon it entirely.


August was a really good month. Very busy, as every month has seemed to be this year, but good. We went to Michigan to see my in-laws, went to my cousin's beautiful wedding, and celebrated my birthday. Plus, I had an incredible weekend in D.C. with my very best friends. With the exception of going to Italy with Kevin earlier this summer, that weekend as the best trip I've had in years. All that plus two works trips and taking on some more responsibilities over at Pantsuit Politics.

Despite that schedule, it's been one of the best reading months I've had this year. I reclaimed the time I've typically spent blogging and put it into reading. I read things I wanted to and thought little of anything I "should" be reading. It was delightful. Taking away the pressure of blogging about what I was reading really let me sink into some of the books I read in a way I haven't in a long time. I read for pure pleasure and didn't analyze everything. It was a nice change. For everything there is a season, I suppose.

Even though I'm not going to write full reviews, I thought I'd leave you with a sentence or two about each book I read so you have my impressions at least. Let me know what you think of this format.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

July 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

July News 

Life continues to move at a brisk pace for us. I so desperately love summer because it often brings chances to see people we don't get to see the rest of the year. This July has been no exception. We've seen so many dear friends and a good amount of family, too. We've especially gotten lots of great time with the little people in ours lives, several of whom got a copy of Our Great Big Backyard to enjoy this summer. Lots of them are getting old enough to actually know who we are and sit and read together, which I adore.


Work has been going well. I'm still completely exhausted and working on adjusting to the fast pace of our firm, but I'm really enjoying the work and I think I'm going to be good at it. I feel like I have the logistics on the job down pretty well and now I'm working on adding context, the why of the what.

As we come to the close of the summer, I'm also recognize that the pace and plethora of commitments I've accumulated over the last few years of teaching part time are not going to be sustainable with my new job. I've been involved in so many great thing and I'm beginning to face the reality that I'm going to need to give some of them up if I want to remain sane. I'm still figuring out exactly what will stay and what will go. In that vein, I've made some decisions in regards to the blog...

I'm choosing to scale back the blog. It's not going away, because I don't want to leave the wonderful community of people I've found in the book blogging world and with whom I have great conversations about what I've been reading. However, I don't have time to do reviews for every book I read any more. At this point, I'm choosing to do reviews only for the books about which I really want to share my thoughts. That will scale back the frequency of posts intensely, but I'm hoping what will be left will be more worthwhile. In practicality, this likely means 1-2 book reviews per month rather than the 8-12 I've been doing for the last several years. The monthly updates will continue because I find them a great tracking mechanism and a great way to touch base with all you wonderful readers.

Ultimately, I'm hoping this means I'll break my reading slump. With the pressure of writing a review for every book I read removed, I think I'll be more apt to tear through things voraciously again and not have any fear associated with loading up my Kindle app. So, while you may see less of me here, hopefully that will mean I'm reading more, which is the whole point anyway.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Inspired - Rachel Held Evans

Inspired
Title: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
Author: Rachel Held Evans
Publication Date: 6/12/2018
Pages: 240
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a big fan of Evans's work
Date Completed: 6/23/18

Summary: Evans wrestles with some of the toughest passages of Scripture. She challenges traditional mindsets about the Bible. Above all, she expresses her deep love for this book and its message.

What I Thought: It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Rachel Held Evans fan-girl. When I met her at the Why Christian conference this past spring, it was all I could do to not invite her to dinner and to be my best friend. I realize how creepy that sounds, but I swear my intentions it's not. She's just one of those authors with whom I feel a strong, real connection. In so many ways, I feel as though she is a few steps ahead of me on a shared faith journey. Her books have been a balm to my soul and an encouragement in times of spiritual struggle. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Grace and Grit - Lilly Ledbetter

Grace and Grit
Title: Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond
Author: Lilly Ledbetter
Publication Date: 2/28/2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 6/23/18

Summary: Ledbetter became a symbol for equal pay when she sued her long time employer, Goodyear. In this memoir, she shares her life story, including the epic legal battle that led to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

What I Thought: I honestly did not know much about Lilly Ledbetter before reading this book. I knew she had something to do with equal pay in this country and that's about it. It was so fun to read her whole story and see how she became an unlikely activist.

Ledbetter spends a lot of time talking about her early life and marriage which, while reading, feels more like a novel than a political memoir. However, I'm so glad she spent that time there; you really need the context of those years to understand just how incredible it was that Ledbetter became the symbol she is today. You would never have predicted her path when she was a poor child in rural Alabama. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Wind in the Door - Madeleine L'Engle

A Wind in the Door
Title: A Wind in the Door
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 203
How I Found It: I read A Wrinkle in Time 
Date Completed: 6/23/18

Summary: The Murrys are at it again. This time, it's the fate of Charles Wallace, not their father, which hangs in the balance. Fantastical creatures, a fight against evil, and lots of character development. 

What I Thought: I didn't know until a few years ago that A Wrinkle in Time had sequels. Upon rereading the classic in 2017, I knew I wanted to read the whole series. 

I found A Wind in the Door to retain many of the qualities which make the first book so delightful. L'Engle mixes fantasy with science fiction. She brings her technical science down to an understandable level for the average reader. There are creatures of all sorts. There is an epic battle against nebulous evil forces. And there is loads of character development. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Grace for the Good Girl - Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl
Title: Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life
Author: Emily P. Freeman
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 257
Genre: Faith / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I think Sarah on Pantsuit Politics mentioned it.
Date Completed: 6/22/18

Summary: The pressure for a woman to be "good" can be debilitating, particularly in faith communities. Freeman addresses the heavy expectations and how freeing life is when you step out from under them.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this both more and less than I thought I would. I know that's a contradiction. Let me try to explain.

I'll start with the more. I've read a lot of books like this in my life. Not on this topic in particular, but a variety of subjects. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in Lifeway stores. I was submersed in a culture that really celebrated and encouraged this type of writing. Since that time, my faith journey has been winding and I do not find much joy in cliché Christian culture. I haven't been in a Christian bookstore in years and am 110% cool with that. So, coming into this book, I felt some apprehension. I wanted to hear Freeman's message because I was pretty sure it would apply to me (spoiler: it did), but I was worried it would be all fluff I've heard before. I mean, even the cover looks like it came directly off the Christian-ese assembly line. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Silent Wife - A. S. A. Harrison

The Silent Wife
Title: The Silent Wife
Author: A. S. A. Harrison
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 326
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: Some friends recommended it.
Date Completed: 6/9/18

Summary: Jodi and Todd have a picture-perfect marriage that has been emotionally dead for a long time. A series of choices they make lead to a dramatic end to their relationship and Todd's life.

What I Thought: Some very dear friends of ours recommended this book to me and even graciously loaned me their copy. They talked it up, so my expectations were high when I packed it in my suitcase for Italy. 

I read almost the entire book during our endless layover in LaGuardia airport. If you've ever been to LaGuardia, you know how desperately anyone in that place needs an escape. Easily the worst airport I've ever been in. 

Unfortunately, this book was not as gripping as I had hoped. I found Jodi's character to be cold and flat. The character is obviously meant to portray the cool collection of having everything together, but to have that carry into her inner left was disconcerting. She didn't feel emotionally engaged in her actions and so I didn't feel emotionally engaged with her story. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Final Girls - Riley Sager

Final Girls
Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: 7/11/2017
Pages: 342
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember, but I think another blogger talked about it last year.
Date Completed: 6/9/18

Summary: Years after being the sole survivor of a brutal mass murder, Quincy Carpenter is still trying to cope with the emotional and social pressures that come with that position. Being in the "Final Girls" club is not a membership she ever wanted. But, when one of her fellow "Final Girls" dies suddenly, she's forced to confront her past head on. 

What I Thought: If you've been following the blog in the last year, you know I've been on a hunt for a really good thriller. I read a bunch of them while we were on vacation at the start of June, including this one. 

Kevin passed on this one because he said it looked less like a thriller and more like a horror novel from the marketing blurb. I had that fear as well; after reading the book, I would say Sager rides the line between the two. There are flashbacks to Quincy's nightmarish experience in college that slowly fill in the pieces of her memory and the plot. Even in those flashbacks, though, there isn't too much graphic gore until closer to the end. Overall, there are more violent descriptions than most psychological thrillers, put I wouldn't push this all the way into the horror genre because most of the book doesn't center on those scenes. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

June 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

June News 

I feel like I start every monthly recap this year by describing how busy we are. If you're tired of the repetitive nature, I apologize. We really are just that busy, though.


June has been no exception. As you know, we traveling to Italy for the first two weeks of the month and that was delightful. Then, four days after our return, I started my new full time job. I've done three full weeks now and it's going really well. I feel as though I'm finally doing "real" work and not just observing/training. I still am confident that it's going to be a good fit. I'll be traveling for this job a decent amount and I already have my first two trips booked: a conference in Williamsburg, VA later in July and a visit to Knoxville, TN in late August. While both of those will be car trips, I am optimistic that I'll do a lot of flying in this job and, therefore, have lots of reading time.

Being back in a 40-hour office job has been good, but exhausting. I cannot describe to you how very tired I am on so many levels. I'm a little concerned that I will be out of town for five out of the next six weekends (for a variety of reasons) and so will not have weekend recouping time. That's been invaluable these past few weeks as I've adjusted to the new schedule. I'll make it work, though; I'm sure.

I did get in a lot of reading this month and it feels so good to be finding my rhythm again. I've been totally slashing my TBR and not finishing books right and left. Not finishing books (after starting them) is something I've basically never done. In the past, I've been a strong proponent of just pushing through to the end. These days, however, my reading time is precious and I am just not interested in wasting it on something I'm not enjoying.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens
Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Publication Date: 9/23/14
Pages: 496
Genre: Fantasy / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 6/2/18

Summary: A retelling of Rapunzel, with two quasi-related plots woven in as well. 

What I Thought: I've had this book on my TBR list for a very, very long time. I've known it was a retelling of Rapunzel, but not much more than that. It ended up being much more detailed and involved than I expected.

Forsyth weaves together the stories of three women across decades of Italian and French history. It takes a while to understand their connection to each other. Admittedly, this grated on me a bit in the beginning. Even though I knew Forsyth would likely bring them together in the end - and she did - I struggled to build connection with three separate sets of characters and plot lines. 

The book is also a lot longer than I expected. Because I was reading a digital version, it wasn't until about a third of the way through that I really looked at the length. It clocks in at nearly 500 pages and it felt it to me. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but having three full stories in one book does feel long. It wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that the stories started to really coalesce and the pace picked up. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I'm Still Here - Austin Channing Brown

I'm Still Here
Title: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: 5/5/2018
Pages: 192
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I was given an advance copy at the Why Christian conference.
Date Completed: 6/1/18

Summary: Brown reflects on life as a Black woman in modern America and how the undercurrent of racism persists in our country.

What I Thought: In my welcome bag for the Why Christian conference back in the spring, hiding among the general conference detritus, was a galley of this book. They gave a galley to every person at the conference. Talk about a marketing push. Being the voracious reader I am, I'm always thrilled to be handed a free book.

The next day, when Brown spoke at the conference, I went from being generically excited about a book to being very excited about this book. Brown spoke with grace and humor, but also with truth and a loving ferocity. I am sure it was not the most comfortable thing to speak about race to a room full of mostly white people in North Carolina, but she did and it was awesome. The book is an extension of that conversation. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sourdough - Robin Sloan

Sourdough
Title: Sourdough
Author: Robin Sloan
Publication Date: 9/5/2017
Pages: 262
Genre: Fantasy / Food / Science Fiction / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Sloan's work before.
Date Completed: 5/31/18

Summary: A young tech worker has her life changed when the men behind her favorite local restaurant leave her their sourdough starter. 

What I Thought: This book was perfectly charming. It's a light, quick read and one that will leave you hungry, too. 

I desribed Sloan's previous novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, as "a fun adventure that blends old world solemnity and reverence with modern attitudes and ideas." That same sentiment applies here, albeit with an eye toward food and not books. Sloan is masterful at bringing together respect for tradition and modern advancement. He does it well, without becoming ham-handed in his approach. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Thought It Was Just Me - Brené Brown

I Thought It Was Just Me
Title: I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
Author: Brené Brown
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 305
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a big fan of Brené Brown's work.
Date Completed: 5/31/18

Summary: Brené Brown's research about shame will be seminal. Her influence is already wide-reaching as so many people resonate with what she's learned. 

What I Thought: I've been exposed to Brené Brown's work through a lot of avenues, but I've never actually read any of her books before this. Somehow, that seems kind of insane to me, but it's true. My goal is to read through her recent work, starting with this one. I heard her say once in an interview that her work makes the most sense in order because it follows the path of her own growth, so that's what I'm doing. 

When I taught Critical Thinking, we spent a chunk of time talking about emotional intelligence and also about moral sentiments. Included in those conversations were discussions about shame, guilt, and how those sentiments affect us. Brown's work around these ideas totally changed how I taught those subjects. In fact, I incorporated a lot of content from this very book into my last semester because I started reading it in February and then didn't finish before my library loan ran out and I got sent to the back of the waiting list again.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Good as Gone - Amy Gentry

Good as Gone
Title: Good as Gone
Author: Amy Gentry
Publication Date: 7/26/2016
Pages: 273
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 5/29/18

Summary: Julie was kidnapped from her bedroom at thirteen. The only witness was her younger sister. When Julie shows up on the family doorstep nearly a decade later, the Whitakers are suddenly thrust back into a world of intensely mixed emotions. 

What I Thought: For whatever reason, I've been on the hunt for another really good thriller for awhile. I got on the kick around Halloween last year and has continued. Perhaps because I put a lot of thrillers on my TBR around that time and now I'm reading through them in my efforts to slim down that list this year. 

All that to say, here's another one.

And I'm getting worn out on this genre. It just...so rarely succeeds in thrilling me. 

This book has been all over the place lately. It sold well and lots of people liked it. Kevin and I both read it while on our Italy trip. I knew I wanted easy reads on that trip. This certainly fit that bill, but I couldn't help feeling a little let down by it. Kevin felt the same.

Monday, June 11, 2018

May 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

May News 

I don't know where to start today. There's so much to share! First of all, let me acknowledge the weird blog schedule for the last month. I barely posted at all in May. I had a massive reading slump this spring. Compile that with a slow reading year in general and I just didn't have enough content to post on a regular basis. So, I gave myself three weeks off and just didn't worry about it (much). Plus, the slow May I had planned where I would lounge around and read books was suddenly...not that.


Why not, you ask? Well, I got a job!

Today is actually my very first full-time day in the office, but I did several training days in May so that I could hit the ground running. I'm no longer teaching, which is a big switch for me. However, I've remained in the higher ed world and joined a consulting firm which works with mainly private colleges and universities. The firm offers consulting on a range of issues from enrollment management to student success to campus planning and architecture. I'm working as a Project Manager and will be mainly focused on projects we do with faith-based schools. From the moment I read the job description, I knew it was going to be a great fit. I'm so excited to be starting a new chapter professionally. This has been a long time coming.

Suffice it to say, that consumed so much of my life and thought in May. Even though I didn't do that much actual working time, I suddenly felt the urgent need to fit a whole summer of productivity (teachers know what I mean) into 2 weeks. Add in getting us ready for our big trip and it was not the deck-sitting, book-reading time I anticipated. But it was a good month.

And speaking of that big trip, we just got back on Thursday! Hence, this delayed monthly recap post. We spent 12 days away from home, which might be a record for us (outside of time with parents). We hit NYC, Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, and a bunch of small towns in Tuscany. It was an amazing trip and we came home utterly exhausted, but so happy. If there's interest, I may do a post here recapping our trip a bit. Otherwise, I have just a few posts on Instagram.

The great thing about the trip is it gave me dedicated reading time like I haven't had in ages. Planes and trains ferried us around the world and afforded me hours to indulge. I set aside most of the heavier reading I've been doing this year and just read fun stuff. I can't wait to share it with you in the upcoming weeks.

For today, the lists below are short, but a good reflection of time spent elsewhere last month.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cooking for Jeffrey - Ina Garten

Cooking for Jeffrey
Title: Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Author: Ina Garten
Publication Date: 10/25/16
Pages: 272
Genre: Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 5/20/18

Summary: A collection of Barefoot Contessa recipes, purportedly gathered because they are her husband's favorites.  

What I Thought: I liked the concept of this book - that Garten was gathering all her husband's favorite recipes. As someone who does 99% of the cooking in my own household (because I like to, not because I'm the woman in the house), it's an idea with which I'm quite familiar. I love treating Kevin to his favorite meals.

While there are some great recipes in this book, I didn't really get the sense that it's true to its title. In the introduction, Garten mentions that every recipe is Jeffrey approved. Yet, references to the titular personage appear rarely after that. I guess I was hoping for more personal discussion in the recipe introductions. Doesn't make the recipes less good, but it did make the book less engaging.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Unbelievable - Katy Tur

Unbelievable
Title: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History
Author: Katy Tur
Publication Date: 9/12/17
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I heard about it from a lot of places.
Date Completed: 5/20/18

Summary: Tur recounts her days on the campaign trail with Trump. She started reporting on his campaign shortly after the infamous announcement at Trump Tower in which then-candidate Trump referred derogatorily to Mexicans. She share the details of her life on the road up through election night 2016.

What I Thought: This book was hard to read at times. Not because it was poorly written. On the contrary, Tur did a wonderful job capturing the tumultuous emotions of the 2016 campaign season. That's exactly what made it hard to read at times. It's hard to emotionally reinsert yourself into that era, particularly knowing how it turned out. 

Tur was one of the earliest reporters to join Trump campaign and, perhaps consequentially, developed an odd relationship with the candidate. His hot-and-cold relationship with the media is exemplified perfectly in his treatment of Tur during the campaign. He would favor her and then immediately turn around and insult her and her work. Tur does a decent job of explaining the emotional effect this had on her, although I think she is still fairly guarded in what she chose to reveal about her own feelings. That reporter instinct to conceal personal feelings must be hard to kick in some aspects. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give
Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: 2/28/17
Pages: 444
Genre: Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: It's been all over since publication.
Date Completed: 5/11/18

Summary: Starr Carter lives in an urban neighborhood but commutes out to a wealthy suburb for school. When she witnesses the murder of a childhood friend, the careful walls she's built between her two lives begin to crumble. 

What I Thought: This book is intensely powerful. The debate over officer-involved shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement is so intense in our country. Yet, we often forget the very real lives that are affected with each tragic shooting. Thomas places us directly in the epicenter of one of these moments. She does not shy away from the diversity of emotions or political responses. 

This book is exactly why I am trying to read books with a more diverse authorship. There was so much in here that, as a white woman, I will just never understand. Some of it was hard to digest, forcing me to confront my own biases (we all have them). Some of it was just heartbreaking; we are so unaware of our own privileges. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

American War - Omar El Akkad

American War
Title: American War
Author: Omar El Akkad
Publication Date: 4/4/17
Pages: 352
Genre: Dystopian / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 5/8/18

Summary: The United States has ceased to be united. Facing increasing environmental disaster, disputes over consequential policy decisions led the South to secede once again, launching a new Civil War. The novel follows the story of how one girl's live intertwines with the events of that conflict.

What I Thought: I really wanted to like this book. The premise is fascinating to me. As we currently stand at such a fraught point in our history, the idea of another civil war doesn't always seem so crazy. Particularly since El Akkad wisely had the country split over environmental concerns and scaling back the use of fossil fuels. If and when America does ever get to that point, the fight will likely be enormous. 

The book is set up as a decades-long story following the path of one southern girl in particular. Sarat Chestnut and her family end up at a camp for refugees after the war breaks out in 2074. It is there that her fighting instinct is ignited and nurtured. She goes on to be a key player in the war itself. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Of Mess and Moxie - Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie
Title: Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Publication Date: 8/8/17
Pages: 224
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a Jen Hatmaker fan.
Date Completed: 4/28/18

Summary: Hatmaker broaches motherhood, faith, and the messiness of life in her new memoir. As always, she does it with grace and heart. 

What I Thought: Hatmaker delivered exactly what I expected her to here. She's funny and witty and so real. She's not afraid to engage with hard issues and lay her vulnerabilities out on the table. 

She does it in a way, however, that still protects others in her life. I love that she's clearly only sharing stories that she's received permission to share or aspects of vulnerability that are hers alone to reveal. It has to be such a hard balance and she walks it well. 

One of my favorite parts of the book was Hatmaker's real talk about motherhood. Now, I'm not a parent, but I love reading about the Hatmaker family. I regularly read her Facebook posts about her kids to Kevin and we laugh and laugh. The book is no different. It just adds in a layer of depth that is not always present in the sound bites on social media. She talks about what it's like being a working mom and how she doesn't let her kids - or anyone - make her feel guilty about that. Loved that section! See the second quote below for a perfect example of Hatmaker blending humor with real talk. It was a encouragement to me, someone who has no intention of giving up work if and when I ever have kids. Mostly because I would lose my mind. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

April News 

I feel like I've been longing for spring on here every month. I've talked incessantly about the weather like I'm at a cocktail party and don't know anyone. I can't help it, though. It was such a long winter and this spring has felt like a very, very long time coming. It is finally here and it is glorious. Leaves on the trees, color everywhere. North Carolina offers the most beautiful spring colors. My lilac bush is right on the verge of blooming. I'll be smelling that sweet scent every time I open the front door within days. So, forgive my months-long diatribe on the weather.


It was, once again, such a busy month. We can't catch a break this spring. I feel this way every year, but I always forget just how intense things are. Kevin is not in grad school this year, which is wonderful, but he still worked almost every weekend of the last two months. He's finally done with his crazy season; I have two weeks left until I'm finished with the semester. He's thrown himself into outdoor projects full force, mostly because we're hosting a party for some of his student workers today and he wants our yard to be nice for that. This will be our third summer in this house and we are slowly but surely making our deck area a wonderful summer oasis in which we love spending time. I can't wait for long, lazy evenings out there with cool beverages and good friends.

Part of what has made April particularly busy is all of the extra stuff I've been doing on top of my regular job. I started leading the choir I'm in that goes to sing at nursing homes. I'm still serving on the board of our local housing authority; this month, that involved a conference in Myrtle Beach and several extra meetings because we're making some major transitions. A commitment that is usually 3 hours a month became 3+ hours a week in April. Sigh. I'm also the new Production Assistant for Pantsuit Politics! I've actually been doing this since the start of March, but we've got our rhythm down and I'm doing as much as I can to help the amazing Sarah and Beth. If you aren't already listening to this podcast, you really need to! Today's episode is an interview with Jen Hatmaker and it exemplifies everything I love about the show and why I wanted to work with them. On top of all of that, I've been very actively searching for a full-time job. I'm hoping to have some news on that front next month...

Somehow, I always seem to read more when I am crazy busy. I ended my reading slump and, though my numbers aren't super impressive, every single book I read was gold. Seriously. Not a bad one in the bunch this month. I can almost never say that. I would easily recommend any of the books I read this month, and have already! If you haven't read my reviews this month, I definitely encourage you to go back and take a look. I am confident you'll find something to enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The News - Alain de Botton

The News
Title: The News: A User's Manuel
Author: Alain de Botton
Publication Date: 2/11/14
Pages: 272
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: Several sources have recommended it recently. 
Date Completed: 4/25/18

Summary: de Botton takes a wide angle look at our news climate. He breaks the book into sections, each one tackling a different type of news: political, international, celebrity, disasters, weather, etc. 

What I Thought: After seeing recommendations for this in several places, it seemed like a good time to pick it up. After all, we are struggling with how to handle media in our world right now. A user's manual seems like just the ticket.

The book is fascinating. de Botton has a lot of astute observations about how the news works and how we consume it. I particularly enjoyed the section on political news, as that is the majority of what I consume these days. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing
Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: 6/7/16
Pages: 300
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 4/21/18

Summary: Generations of Ghanaians are separate by the Atlantic when one half-sister marries a British slaver and the other is sold into slavery herself. Gyasi tracks the fates of their descendants from the early nineteenth century to the modern era. 

What I Thought: This book was just so lovely and heartbreaking. It's a great concept and Gyasi executes it well. Each chapter centers around a different character, alternating between the family living in Ghana and the family living in America. It's really interesting to track two hundred years of history through those two lenses, separated only by fate. 

This book made me think quite about about alternate histories. What would the world have been like without the slaving exploitation of Africa. Would African culture have developed differently? Western culture certainly would have. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pastrix - Nadia Bolz-Weber

Pastrix
Title: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Pages: 204
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I attended a conference Bolz-Weber spoke at.
Date Completed: 4/12/18

Summary: Bolz-Weber went from a child raised in the church to an alcoholic stand-up comic to a sober Lutheran pastor. She tracks those big shifts and muses about the nature of faith in this memoir.

What I Thought: Back in March, I attended the Why Christian conference for the first time. It's a progressive Christian conference hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans, whose work I adore. It was being hosted at Duke University, which is basically in my geographic backyard. While I don't align with every theological stance the conference takes, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn and grow and listen. I'm so very glad I went. It was an incredible two days sitting under the testimonies and teachings of women of every stripe and color. It was a beautiful reminder of the diversity of the church and how we are united at the Eucharist table in our belief in Christ. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daughter of the Gods - Stephanie Thornton

Daughter of the Gods
Title: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Publication Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 442
Genre: Biography / Chick Lit / Historical / Royals / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Thornton's other books.
Date Completed: 4/8/18

Summary: Hatshepsut likely served as one of ancient Egypt's only female pharaohs. Somewhere along the line, one of her successors attempted to erase her legacy from history. Thornton pieces together what little we know and adds a hefty dash of her own imagination to create this historical fiction look at the powerful woman's life. 

What I Thought: I feel as though my general disdain for historical fiction - particularly about royals - has been well established on this blog. It's why I steer so far clear of Phillipa Gregory's fictional Tudor empire. I know too much of the real history to be able to enjoy a fantasized version of events. Thornton, however, has consistently proved herself the exception to my rule.

Very little is known about the life of Hatshepsut (the number of times I've spelled that name wrong while writing this post gives me a whole lot of respect for Thornton's editor). Like with her other novels, Thornton had to draw extensively from her own imagination to craft the world her characters inhabit. It's a lot of educated guessing. Usually, that's what drives me crazy about historical fiction. Thornton, however, has been wise in selecting relatively unknown women. We know so little about them that all we really have is imagination and educated guesses. So, these stories feel indulgent and far less of a violation of historical truth than many other works in the genre. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar
Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publication Date: 1963
Pages: 244
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: It's a classic.
Date Completed: 4/5/2018

Summary: Esther Greenwood seems to have a wonderful life as a young, single woman in the city. Things are, however, slowly unraveling at the seams.

What I Thought: I remember having the option to read this book at one point in a high school English class. I remember several of my classmates who did. We talked briefly about how Plath's journey is mirrored in some ways through this novel, which was published after her own battle with mental illness and suicide. Since that point, I've been intrigued by the book, but never had a particular impetus to finally read it. Having read it now, I'm rather glad I waited until this point. I definitely would not have understood its depths as well when I was a high school student.

When I was looking through my immense TBR list and trying to decide which specific books to select for Roof Beam Reader's challenge this year, I added this one as a whim. It's been on my list for quite a while and it just seemed time. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dear Ijeawele - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele
Title: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: 3/7/2017
Pages: 63
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've read other of Adichie's work.
Date Completed: 4/3/18

Summary: When a friend asked Adichie for advice on how to raise her new daughter as a feminist, Adichie responded with these fifteen suggestions. Later, she turned the letter into this book so more could apply the principles to their parenting. 

What I Thought: From the first few pages, I loved this book. Loved it. I want to send copies to every parent of young kids I know. Chimamanda's suggestions are practical and well-written. 

As with her earlier work, We Should All Be Feminists, the ideas she share are so simple and yet so profound. It just baffles me that what she is saying isn't common sense. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rich People Problems - Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems
Title: Rich People Problems
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publication Date: 5/23/2017
Pages: 398
Genre: Chick Lit / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read the rest of the series.
Date Completed: 3/28/18

Summary: When Nick Young's grandmother, the formidable Su Yi, is on her deathbead, the family rushes in from all corners of the globe. Drama abounds as they begin jockeying for a better place in her will before she passes. 

What I Thought: I found these books (this is the final in a trilogy) to be cotton candy fun. They are utter fluff and a sugary delight. Reading them is like watching a soap opera or a tv show like Revenge - there is little substance but you can't turn away. This iteration in the series was no exception.

I did actually like that there was less romance in this novel. Nick and Rachel are settled and comfortable. While the first two books centered around whether or not they would ever get married, this one found them stable and happy. I liked that. Any relationship drama had shifted to Astrid and Charlie, who had a nice story line here that was pleasant but didn't monopolize the main plot of the book. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

March News 


Last month I was so effusive about the changing weather. And then, March tricked me. We had a week or two of glorious spring weather at the end of February and then came more snow and several more weeks of cold. I'm writing this on the 29th and yesterday was the first day I felt warm again and threw open the windows. My hope was misplaced, apparently, but I think spring is here for good this time. Our lilac bush out front is so close to blooming. Last year it only bloomed for a few days and I'm terrified I'm going to miss it while we are at my parents' for Easter. Of course, by the time you're reading this, we'll be back home and I'll hopefully be enjoyed the scent of lilac every time I open the front door.


Despite the weather, March was a better month than February. Still terribly busy, but in a normal way. I didn't get much reading in - again. 2018 is not turning out to be a super prolific reading year for me. At this point, I'm hoping summer can turn that around.

I am making good progress on my TBR challenge (as you can see below). I'm doing so much better about not adding books to the list unless I really think I'll read them. I'm also being brutally honest with myself about the books I'm taking off. I have no doubt I've taken some great books off the list, but I'm trying to be realistic about what I really will be interested in. I think if the 100 Best Novels challenge taught me anything, it taught me not to waste time on books I'm not enjoying or learning from.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Thousandth Floor - Katharine McGee

The Thousandth Floor
Title: The Thousandth Floor
Author: Katharine McGee
Publication Date: 8/30/2016
Pages: 448
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 3/17/18

Summary: The New York of the future is centered around a massive tower 1000 stories tall. The wealthier you are, the higher you work and reside. McGee centers her story around teenagers throughout the building. 

What I Thought: I really wanted to like this book. Early on, however, I realize it was not what I thought it was. I thought McGee had written a futuristic exploration of class and the social ramifications thereof. While that does seem to be the framing from which she started, this is really a teenage drama and romance. Not what I was anticipating when I picked it up.

The story is interesting enough that I did read the whole thing - and it's not short. However, I found nearly every character insufferable. Worst of all, the main romance line is between an uber-wealthy girl and her adopted brother. Their attraction is, of course, taboo. Yet, McGee persists with it, trying valiantly to make readers want their forbidden love to work. Look, I understand they are not actually related, but I simply could not push through. It was a bridge too far for me to root for siblings of any kind to have a romantic relationship. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Artemis - Andy Weir

Artemis
Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Publication Date: 11/14/2017
Pages: 305
How I Found It: I read and enjoyed The Martian.
Date Completed: 3/11/18

Summary: Jazz Bashara could have had just about any job she wanted. She's chosen to be a porter officially and a smuggler unofficially. When a wealthy customer makes her an offer she can't refuse, suddenly life on the moon gets significantly more dangerous. 

What I Thought: I was really excited for Weir's new book. Like everyone else, I really enjoyed The Martian. It was fun and different and the movie adaptation was fabulous. It was a little heavy on the science stuff and I would have liked some more characters, but I liked it a lot.

When Artemis was announced, I was excited and eager to learn more. The Martian was so unique that I wasn't sure how Weir would follow it up. It was so clearly a stand alone novel, so a sequel seemed out of the question. I think something like Artemis does the job well. It's set on the moon rather than Mars and about 100 years in the future so a city has been built and some of the modern complexities of space travel which Mark Watney faced in The Martian have become obsolete. Others remain integral plot points - include the fragility of human life in space.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sister Citizen - Melissa V. Harris-Perry

Sister Citizen
Title: Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
Author: Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Publication Date: 9/20/2011
Pages: 378
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 3/8/18

Summary: A thoughtful, thorough examination of the place of black women in America.

What I Thought: I am so glad I read this book. I can't remember what list of political book recommendations I read it on, but I'm awfully glad I did. It was incredibly eye-opening for me. 

One of my goals this year is to read books by a more diverse authorship. I believe strongly that reading about other people's experiences and beliefs is the second best option we have to expand our own understanding of the world (the best option is to build a real-life relationship with people who are different from you). This book demonstrates that perfectly. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Salt to the Sea - Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea
Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publication Date: 2/2/2016
Pages: 393
Genre: Historical / Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Sepetys's other novel, Between Shades of Gray
Date Completed: 3/6/18

Summary: As WWII comes to a close and Germany is on the brink of collapse, Sepetys follows several characters on their journey to board the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff

What I Thought: When I read Sepetys's other novel, Between Shades of Grey, I was captivated by her ability to bring to life a part of history about which I knew so little. She has done it again here. Sepetys has a special skill for finding an obscured moment in time and making her readers wonder why such a captivating story ever fell off the pages of our commonly known history. 

In this instance, Sepetys tells the story of four people: three refugees of varying backgrounds and one Nazi soldier. They each are complex and interesting on their own, but their intersection is well written also. I found it particularly unique that Sepetys chose to give one of her main voices to a dedicated Nazi soldier. It is so rare in literature to see a character like that without remorse and yet still written in a vaguely sympathetic way. I didn't like that character, but his devotion to his cause, however evil, added an interesting element to the story that I don't think we could have gotten with a singular focus on those trying to escape the German and Russian armies.