Wednesday, August 3, 2016

July Book Review

  It looks like I devoured some fiction titles but perhaps that's because it's summer so I'm on a short learning break to fit in more entertainment (or most of these reads came up available on my digital library account and I had to read them before they returned themselves from my Kindle). Having read seven books in July I have officially completed and passed my goal of 50 books in 2016! Of course, I'm not going to stop reading so you'll continue to see monthly reviews from me. Let's see just how many I can finish before the end of the year! If you want to check out my thoughts on previous months' reads, check out the blog posts from JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril, May and June!

  You may have noticed that most of my reviews are positive and books I would recommend to others. There is a reason for this. No, I don't manage to read only quality books. As an avid reader who is also a wife and mother I know that my available time to read is limited. I have given myself permission to not finish books that I am just not interested in. Life is too short for terrible books. So, generally, when I pick up a book, I read two chapters. If, after two chapters, I do not care what may or may not happen in the rest of it, I give myself permission to stop reading it and move on to something else. It might be interesting to have a list of "started but never finished books" but I don't care to make time to do that. Since this is a review of finished books, generally they caught my attention early and kept it until the end. Anyway, just wanted to share that in case someone was wondering. 

1. Son by Lois Lowry

   Hurray, I finished the four part series! In this book we begin at the same village where the first book begins. We are in the same time period except from the point of view of Claire, a girl who was chosen as a BirthMother. Each child, at the age of twelve, is assigned a role in the community based on what the leaders deep the best fit. BirthMother is generally the assignment for girls who don't have much capacity for higher learning. We meet Claire as she is giving birth to her first Product and something goes wrong during delivery. The baby is saved through a c-section but Claire is removed from her BirthMother role and sent to work in the Fish Hatchery. She has a longing for the baby she birthed and is able to spend time with him (not usually the custom of the village). She is becoming increasingly discontent with the ways of society and one day hops aboard a delivery ship as it's leaving. She ends up washed up in a community nestled between a huge cliff and the sea. No one ever leaves or comes from the outside. When she's healthy again she finds someone who once left (but returned seriously injured) who can train her to climb the steep cliff out so that she can find her son. 
   It's an engaging tale that does eventually weave all of the stories together from the previous books. I enjoyed the series all together and would recommend it, especially as a good series for teens.

2. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

   I had previously read all of the Lisbeth Salander books and was curious to see how the new author would do in regard to the series. This book takes place about a year after the third book ends. I appreciated that the front of the book had a list of characters and short descriptions so that it would be easy to pick back up with the people and storyline. Millenium the magazine and it's crew have brought in a company to finance them but it is beginning to change the integrity and structure of the magazine. Mikael Blomvkist needs a new story to shoot the magazine back into the spotlight and get rid of all of the speculation that he's a washed up journalist. He receives a tip from a former assistant to a computer scientist and Mikael thinks there may be a link to Lisbeth so he agrees to interview the scientist. The scientist ends up being murdered before Mikael can talk to him. And the adventure quickly picks up. 
   I thought that the story went well with the other books and has quite a few return characters. The book has a decent ending but is still open enough for another book to be written. If it is, I will probably read it as well.

3. Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage by Ed Wheat and Gaye Wheat

  My three main focuses of non-fiction reading are marriage, parenting and spiritual growth. This book contained information for two of those. I was a little wary about reading this one in front of others and even more so sharing that I read it here on my blog but it was a really good book that I think could benefit many engaged and married couples. I am planning to hold on to my copy for when my kids get older and can benefit from the information it contains. 
  It was beneficial that Ed is both a medical doctor and a therapist as his well-rounded knowledge provided a lot of useful information. It covers basics, potential issues and talks a lot about God's design for sex within the marriage relationship. If you are interested in improving all types of intimacy and openness in your marriage, read this book. It can spark good, open, helpful discussions. I highly recommend it!

4. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

  I have read nearly all of Jane Austen's novels (6 of 7, and I only recently found out there's a seventh) and enjoyed them all thoroughly. I thought it would be interesting to read a modernization of one to see what the story might be like in our time. I liked that I already knew the gist of the story and how it would end. I was curious about the creative license the author would take.
  I did not particularly care for all of the "modernization" of the book. It seemed to try to fit in as many current issues and controversies as possible. I know that I am somewhat conservative in my tastes but it was too much for me. If you like the Pride and Prejudice story and don't mind being inundated with a lot of topics of contemporary debate, then you might enjoy this book. I can't freely recommend it and am a little sad about that.

5. Disillusioned by Christy Barritt

   Nikki's brother Bobby was captured by ARM, a terrorist group in Colombia, several years ago. He recently escaped and contacted her to bring him back to the states and help him recover and heal before being debriefed by the military. Nikki has done all she can to honor his wishes (especially since she suspects the military thinks Bobby is guilty of desertion and working with ARM). When leaving the hospital for a safe house, Nikki and Bobby are kidnapped by unknown people. They manage to escape and Bobby calls an old friend he trusts to help them find a safe haven so Bobby can try to remember what he learned while held hostage. The person he calls is Kade Wheaton, the man who broke Nikki's heart eight years ago. Can Nikki put aside the past and trust Kade to keep them safe and help Bobby uncover the information hidden in his mind? Do the news reports that Bobby is actually in cahoots with ARM and is back in the U.S. to carry out a terrorist attack have any merit? Will Nikki be able to discover the truth and who is trustworthy?
  It is a riveting story and Christy drew me in with an engaging and fast-paced story line. Many chapters ended on cliff-hangers and I often continued reading to learn what happened next. I was eager to find out whether Nikki, Kade and Bobby would escape from danger each time and be able to uncover the truth about ARM and Bobby's alleged involvement with them. There were many twists and turns in the story that kept me guessing about who was trustworthy and who might be part of ARM. It is a contemporary story with themes relevant to our country's current events. The characters were people I rooted for to survive and succeed in uncovering the truth. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy action, adventure, espionage and a little romance. Christy has a number of other books already published and I look forward to reading some of her other ones. I anticipate them to be just as entertaining and enrapturing as this one.
[Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Also, this book is officially available on August 9th.]

6. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  I enjoyed this book so much! Nadia is a Lutheran pastor who does not look like your typical pastor or have a typical pastor background. This book tells her story of how she became the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS). She talks openly about her struggles with being a "good Christian" and many of the issues that are divisive within the Christian community. I loved her honesty and truth. I loved how she showed her own struggles with different parts of Christianity. She shows how Scripture has been shown to be true and transforming in her life. 
  It was a very encouraging book as a woman in the Christian faith. It also was encouraging as an imperfect person prone to selfishness and sin. This book will probably make many people feel uncomfortable, hopefully in a good way, one where you consider and re-evaluate your thoughts and beliefs on various subjects. It is not a light-hearted read. I would recommend it for anyone who has wrestled with how we are to love as Christians and what we have been taught a Christian ought to look like.

7. The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

  Ellen, a hypnotherapist, has just met a man, Patrick, through Internet dating and likes him but is on a date with him where he's acting strange. She thinks he might be about to end their short relationship so she is practicing breathing techniques to prepare herself for the let down while he's in the bathroom. When he returns, Patrick reveals that his ex-girlfriend has been stalking him for the past three years. Ellen is intrigued and wants to know more about his stalker. Ellen soon learns what it's been like when she discovers that the ex-girlfriend has been also stalking Ellen, pretending to be a normal hypnotherapy client. Will the stalker ruin their relationship? 
  I have enjoyed all of Liane Moriarty's books. There is not a consistent formula for how the story will turn out. Each time I have no preconceived notion of what is going to happen or how the story will end. Will it turn out happily? One never knows? Will there be some heartache? Probably, but in what form? I was thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. I liked that the POV switched between Ellen and Saskia (the ex-girlfriend). I enjoyed seeing both perspectives and learning more about motivations and their thought lives. It's a good fiction read.

Have you read any of the ones above? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear about a great book you've read recently!

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