Happy Monday! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted a roundup of book reviews. I’m going to be honest with you: for most of the year I didn’t have the time, energy or attention-span to read. That sounds like an excuse and I’m shaking my head at it, but it’s true. I kept myself pretty busy this year and wasn’t in a good environment for half of it. All of those factors took its toll on my reading. My reading goals for the rest of the year are to 1) spend more time reading; and 2) start working on my ever-growing TBR. So, without further ado, here are the books I read from February through July. I focused this post on books I haven’t talked about yet, but gave links to detailed reviews for the books I’ve already reviewed, in case you missed those when they first went up.
Note – Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that I’ll receive a small percentage of any purchase you make using them at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep this blog running. I received some of these books for review from the publisher. I’ll state which books were sent to me in the review–and it’ll be listed in the link to my original review as well. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Dreams, etc.!
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Katie has the perfect life in London, working at her dream job and living in a beautiful flat. At least, that’s how it appears on Instagram. When her glamorous and successful boss Demeter fires her, she’s eventually forced to move back home with her dad and she helps him launch his glamping business. After it opens, Demeter and her family come for a vacation and Katie has the perfect opportunity to get her revenge… but is Demeter’s life all it appears to be?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. In my not so perfect life I was supposed to meet Sophie Kinsella when she came to Minneapolis in February for her book tour and ask a few questions… and then I got the plague. (See below, my setup with book, tissues and nurse Mina.) I emailed the day before the signing to let them know I wouldn’t be able to make it and after I hit send I talked to my dad. “I really am sick, right? I needed to cancel?” I asked, barely able to breathe, probably slightly feverish, and obviously in pretty bad shape. He just chuckled and said, “Yes, you needed to cancel.”
I just love Sophie’s Kinsella’s books. I have for a long time and this one was no exception. In fact, this is probably one of my favorites. There’s a romance, but the book heavily focuses on Katie and her career and I loved that. A little romance is always fun in a story, but I love when stories focus on a woman who has plans and dreams and works to achieve them. The book also addresses social media and how easy it is to curate a feed that doesn’t accurately reflect the life you’re actually living, which is something that’s so easy to forget these days. It’s easy to think that we know what a person’s life based on what they put out on Instagram, but those little squares only show a second of someone’s day and pictures can be taken or edited to make something look so much better and appealing than it actually was. As I read, I felt like Katie and I were in similar places in our lives and I totally identified with her.
And after reading this I really want to go glamping. A friend and I recently talked about going to Wyoming and I looked up yurts to stay in. They were two hours away from the town we planned to go to and I still spent time considering if two hours was too much. I finally gave up the hope that they’d be workable when I saw they’re not pet-friendly. Better luck next time, I guess.
PS – if you know of any good glamping sites, let me know.
Read This If You:
>> Love Sophie Kinsella
>> Are interested in a critique on social media
>> Love lighter reads that still have a lot of heart & depth
>> Are still trying to figure out life & you career
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The kingdom of Ravka is split in two by the Shadow Fold–a place of darkness that’s filled with monsters. When Alina and her regiment are sent out to cross the Shadow Fold her best friend Mal is attacked and Alina reveals a hidden power in an attempt to save him; a power that could be the key to destroying the Shadow Fold. Alina is whisked away from the life she’s known to live in the Royal Court and train with the Grisha, the magical elite led by The Darkling.
I’ve had this book on my shelf since it was first released. (Let’s not talk about how long it took me to finally pick this up.) I’ll start by saying I wasn’t always sure I understood the world or what was happening as much as I wanted to. It could have been due to distraction–there was a lot going on while I read this and I was under a great deal of stress–but it was part of my reading experience, so I wanted to share it. That being said, this was also the escape I needed and I had a really hard time putting it down. The story moved more slowly than I anticipated, but it allowed for some really beautiful moments and I absolutely loved Bardugo’s writing. And there’s The Darkling. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve encountered a character I love as much as I love The Darkling. But I do. If you read this book for one reason and one reason only, it should be for The Darkling.
I ordered the second book before I finished the first and it’s going to be one of my next reads!
Read This If You:
>> Enjoy slower-paced fantasy
>> Enjoy love them/hate them characters.
>> Are interested in a book inspired by Tsarist Russia.
Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older
I won’t say much about this, since it’s book three in the Bone Street Rumba series. The first two books in the trilogy are Half-Resurrection Blues and Midnight Taxi Tango. Check out my review of Half-Resurrection Blues. (Apparently I didn’t review Midnight Taxi Tango.)
This was my least favorite of the three. This one had more sex than I remember in the other two and I found it to be excessive and unnecessary. That being said, it was a satisfying conclusion to the series and I do recommend it. If you decide to check it out, I highly recommend the audiobook. Older narrates and he does a FANTASTIC job! It’s totally worth immersing yourself in the series just to hear his narration.
Read (Listen to) This If:
>> You’ve read the other two books in the series.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Sam wakes up on Cupid’s Day, ready to live through a day that will prove her popularity. And it does, but at the end of the day she dies. When she wakes up to relive Cupid Day all over again, she tries to see if she can change the outcome, but she ends up reliving the day seven times.
Every once in awhile a book unintentionally brings out my inner English major geekiness and this one did. I’m holding onto this book so that I can give it a closer read and work through my initial analysis of the book. (I have no idea when that will happen, but it’s going to happen. 😂) I think I hyped this one up a bit too much in my mind. I have anticipated this book for such a long time and that’s always sets me up for disappointment. So, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I thought I would, but I really enjoyed it. Sam is a character that I hated at the beginning, but I grew to love her as the book went on. I enjoyed following her as she relived this day and tried to take in as much and learn as much as she could. I loved the end of it.
I will say I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be and there was one day in particular that I didn’t think was necessary. I went to see the movie right after I finished the book (I literally closed the book and hopped in the car to go to the theater), and that day wasn’t included in the movie, which I appreciated.
While I didn’t love this as much as I thought I would, it’s still a book I’d recommend.
Read This If You:
>> Want to read a book that addresses issues like bullying.
>> Are interested in a Ground Hog Day-style story that has life or death stakes.
Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Tourmaline was 15 when she gave a damning testimony that put her mom in prison. Now her life is stable and she has a close relationship with her dad, the president of a local biker club, the Wardens. Virginia’s life took a turn when she was fifteen and her mom “sold” her to a lawyer, Hazard, who sees the law as just a suggestion. When Hazard decides to take down the Wardens he sends Virginia to gather information, but the two girls form a friendship.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This book is a hard one for me to review, because I went into it expecting a completely different story than what it actually is. I heard a comparison of this story to a classic, which I totally understand after reading the book, but I also took that comparison a little too literally. I expected a really action-packed book, so I kept waiting for the story and the action to start until I was about halfway through and realized that I had the wrong expectations for this book.
But I also loved it! The writing is absolutely beautiful, I loved the characters, and once I realized what the story was supposed to be like I wished I wouldn’t have read through the first half of the book waiting for something else. I loved both Tourmaline and Virginia and I enjoyed watching them navigate the lives they were living. I loved watching them wrestle with their identity, the expectations placed on them and the people around them. Both of these girls lead very different lives from anything that I know and yet I found that I could identify with them. Even when circumstances of life are different, struggles can remain the same. I may have read through half of the book wondering when the story would really start, but because of how much I loved it I think it’s still in my top five list of faves from the first half of 2017. I plan to prioritize a reread of this–probably sometime this year–so that I can read through the book again and fully appreciate it.
Read This If You:
>> Love books that highlight female friendship.
>> Enjoy following characters as they try to figure out who they are and where they fit into their family/community.
Undaunted by Christine Caine
Christine Caine, the founder of the Propel Women’s Leadership series and A21–an anti-human trafficking organization–shares her own experiences to help us overcome the painful circumstances we’ve all experienced, so that instead of hindering us they can empower us to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives.
I had to take a deep breath before starting this. So, here’s the thing: things that happened in May and June have made me a very cynical person. I might lose some of that cynicism in time. My guess is I will, although right now I have a hard time believing that will happen. Because of my newfound cynical view on life, I needed space from this book. Like, I picked it up while I was cleaning one day and I hid it because I didn’t want to look at it.
However. If I had reviewed this book back in May after I read it, I would have had a very different take on it. This is what I would have said:
I read this book in a weekend and during that weekend I was on vacation. So, I liked it. I always had a pen out and was underlining sentences, starring passages… basically making a mess of this book, as you can see by the cover that won’t lie flat. Caine really opens up in this book and shares how the experiences in her life helped her in her ministry. I think that’s such an important message to share: that the very experiences you’ve endured and even the mistakes you’ve made can be used in your ministry. God can and will use both the good and the bad, but it tends to be the bad that holds you back. There were thoughts that came up in this that were in other studies I’ve gone over recently and some of the questions she has the reader ask themselves have come to mind at various points throughout the last few months.
She had experiences that I really connected with and found comfort in–not in any of the big things that happened in her life, but little things like when she was in the airport during the early stages of planning A21. Again, I’ve become pretty cynical in the last few months, so now some of those things I connected with kind of tick me off.
I actually think I should read this book again now, but again… I need some space from it, so I hid it. I don’t even remember where and I’m fine with that. But I should probably read it again.
Read This If You:
>> Have fears that are holding you back from following where God leads in your life.
>> You should just read it. It’s a good book.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Maddy has a rare disease: she’s allergic to everything. She lives in safe, clean, and sterile environment, locked away from everything in her house. She’s only allowed to see her mother–who takes care of her–and her nurse, Carla. When a new boy moves in across the street, they begin to communicate via text message and email, and when Maddy realizes she has feelings for Ollie she starts to question what the purpose of living is, if she doesn’t really get to live her life.
I know there are some people who have issues with this book; there are also a lot of people who love it and I lean more toward that latter group. I really enjoyed this book. Maddy was a character who immediately captured my heart and I loved Ollie too. It’s a quick read: the chapters are really short and it also plays with different forms of narrative, like text messages and emails. If you’ve read my books reviews for awhile, you know that type of thing always makes me happy! Also, because of that I would totally recommend buying a physical copy over a digital copy. I liked the plot and this would have been a fun contemporary to read… but the end made me love this book even more. I wasn’t sure how it was going to wrap up, but I really appreciated how it did. It wasn’t what I expected and I actually found that part of the story so fascinated that I really wanted more from it.
Read This If You:
>> Enjoy books that use different methods of storytelling.
>> Are looking for a quick, contemporary read that isn’t light and fluffy.
Already Reviewed (starred books are my faves, all sent by publishers for review):
The Mermaid’s Daughter | Mississippi Blood | The Enemies of Versailles | It Happens all the Time * | The Day I Died | Red Leaves | It Happens in the Hamptons | My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward * | The Beach House: Coming Home | The Beach at Painter’s Cove * | Soulmates *