I can’t believe another month is behind us and hope you guys have a fun & safe Halloween weekend. This month I have eight new books to share about for this month of reading, but more importantly than that, I have a big ol’ braggy announcement.
It looks like I met my reading goal for 2015! I’m feeling SO proud that I have got sixty books under my belt and I certainly have YOU to thank for that!
If I didn’t have this space to share in, I certainly would have more time to read more books..
Wait a minute…
Now that I think about it YOU hold me back from dream of accomplishing 100 books.
In reality, I love having lots to share with you each month and these monthly round-ups serve as motivation to read a lot and to read a diverse amount of books. Thank you for motivating me and I can’t wait to see how many more books I can share with you before the year is over.
Let’s dig into a fresh stack, shall we?
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
I have been working my way through the list of must-reads by the authors featured in our Sundays With Writers series and this book was recommended by Elisabeth Egan as a must-read. I picked it up from the library and the way the book was set up was so different than anything I had read before. I was having a hard time digging into it and kept putting it aside, but I just didn’t want to give up on this one because it had come so highly recommended.
That is why I want to say that there are cases where an audiobook can bring an entirely different reader experience and that was the case with Dept. of Speculation. The narration by Jenny Offill is pitch perfect as you dive almost into one’s stream of thoughts about marriage and parenting. It’s not the pretty stuff, but the meat of marriage and the difficult moments of parenting that are so raw and real. It was, in fact, the kind of book where sentences made the hairs on my arms stand up from their beauty.
Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes – a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions – the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.
Although I muddled through it in book format, the audio version really helped me navigate the story in a really beautiful way. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time! This would be a really great one for a first-time audiobook user too since the audiobook is just over three hours of listening time, a quick & satisfying listen!
5 Out of 5 Stars
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
There is so much beautiful layering in this book that I just couldn’t put it down! 78-year-old Harriet discovers that her husband had won an Alaskan cruise before his passing and, with an expiration date looming on the prize, she decides to take that cruise with her best friend. When her best friend unexpectedly bails on her, Harriet finds herself on a boat out to sea, but she isn’t alone thanks to her husband’s visits.
We grow to know Harriet in a unique way as chapters alternate with a,“This is Your Life,” game show theme and we jump along the timeline of Harriet learning more about all of the life experiences that have shaped her, the people who have betrayed her, how she was treated when she was a child, how she felt as her marriage and parenting were failing, and what it was like for her to care for a husband who mentally was no longer there.
The book twists and turns, secrets are revealed and an unexpected guest joins Harriet on the cruise. It was a beautiful story that makes you consider what your own, “This Is Your Life,” show might look like- with all the good and the bad moments in it.
Jonathan Evison joined me on Sundays With Writers so when you are done with the book, be sure to read his interview to learn more behind this incredible book! This book has been optioned for screenplay so be sure to read it before catching it in the theaters!
5 Out of 5 Stars
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book was another must-read author recommendation, this one was recommended by Liz Fenton in her Sundays With Writers interview. Somehow I had missed this one in between her other two incredible books Forever Interrupted and Maybe In Another Life.
I can now say that I’ve read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books and this is, by far, her best work. After I Do is a brutally honest portrayal of a failing marriage that gives us glimpses into our own marriage struggles that we deal with daily and how, what once was endearing, can be the things that we can’t stand about our spouse.
Lauren & Ryan take a year off of their marriage in a temporary split to see if they really are meant to be together. As they navigate the world without one another, they discover a lot about themselves and each other.
A hopeful book filled with a family of characters that feel like your own, Reid’s book makes you feel like part of the family as you root for Lauren & Ryan to find each other again. Highly recommending this one!
Taylor Jenkins Reid will be joining us this month in an upcoming Sundays With Writers- stay tuned!
5 Out of 5 Stars
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Once again, I hit the must-read list and Vanessa Diffenbaugh had recommended this one saying, It is an incredibly intense book about racial inequality in our criminal justice system, but it is beautifully written and powerful, with just enough hopefulness to help you sit with the discomfort of the truth and think hard about how you can help contribute to a solution. I recommend it to everyone I know.”
It is true. It is impossible to read this book and not think differently about our broken court system and those on death row. Bryan Stevenson founded an organization called the Equal Justice Initiative whose sole purpose was to defend those who were most desperately in need. His cases include people suffering from mental illness, addiction, poor, the wrongly condemned, and women & children and his stories illustrate case by case how these people wound up on death row and how they worked to defend them.
At the center of it all is Walter McMillian who was wrongfully accused of murder and Bryan’s efforts to redeem this incredible man before he is executed. I flipped the pages as quickly as I would a legal thriller hoping for redemption for Walter and his family.
Bryan is a masterful storyteller, offering heart and humanity to the wounded, and is a true American hero. Everyone should read this book.
5 Out of 5 Stars
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
With her signature wit, Jen Hatmaker takes a year-long fast for Jesus, tackling one excess after another in the average American life. From whittling down her closet to seven items, to eating only seven foods, to reducing her waste, to trimming her spending; she documents her daily struggles and triumphs through the lessons learned.
What really pulled through for me most was how much we take for granted and how, with a bit of trimming, we have the ability to transform the lives of the poor. If we are to love Jesus, we are to love the poor like He did. Not only are we reminded about our own individual choices, but she really sheds light on the excessive spending of churches, money spent only on themselves when it could be better served for the greater needs of the world. This comes up often in the book as Jen’s church has chosen to spend on those in need rather than their own building and selves.
It would be impossible to read this book and not feel moved to give more. Although I would consider myself a minimalist, there is ALWAYS room for improvement and this gave me a lot of food for thought. I shed many tears through this one for those in need and unwanted. While expecting a light read, Jen delivered a life-changing practice that we could all be challenged to try.
4 Out of 5 Stars
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One will be hitting the theatres in movie form thanks to the direction of Spielberg (no biggie!). I selected this book to work for my local book club and planned an outing to the Secret Door Games store to pick up some holiday gifts for our kids. I thought this book would be just perfect for the event.
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Ernest Cline wasted a lot of ’80’s references on this poor girl who apparently knows nothing about the era, but it didn’t take away from the unique concept that he developed in this story. Following Wade Watts as he works to discover the ultimate lottery ticket in a virtual world was such a treat as a reader and felt as though, you too, were in the world with him. The twists at the end really brought it all together beautifully!
Although this was out of my typical genre, I really loved the unique concept and think it just might be a bit of the foreshadowing of what might be to come in 2044.
4 Out of 5 Stars
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
No one can ever believe that I have never read a Kate Morton book, but I think the covers to her books have always kept me away. I decided to not judge a book by its cover and to dig into my first book this month by her. I guess you guys were right, she really IS good!
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
All I can say is, holy plot twists, Batman! This book was a SLOW build for me and I wasn’t sure at all where the story was going. Since this was my first Kate Morton novel, I had no expectations of where the story was heading or how her writing works, but in the last hundred pages there were about three plot twists that completely shocked me. It ended up making the whole slow build thing a little more worth it.
Overall, really happy I added this one to my book stacks this month! If you are a Kate Morton fan, please let me know which of her books is your favorite so I can be sure to add it to my next stack!
4 Out of 5 Stars
The Life & Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
This book is dark and unusual as the reader dives into the life of Sophie Stark, an eccentric and unusual filmmaker, beginning from her very first college documentary and on.
“It’s hard for me to talk about love. I think movies are the way I do that,” says Sophie Stark, a visionary and unapologetic filmmaker. She uses stories from the lives of those around her—her obsession, her girlfriend, and her husband—to create movies that bring her critical recognition and acclaim. But as her career explodes, Sophie’s unwavering dedication to her art leads to the shattering betrayal of the people she loves most.
Told through a chorus of voices of people who know her, the reader discovers more about the creative genius that she was and the lengths that she will use people to achieve the films she wants. The reader never really understands Sophie Starks, neither do these sea of voices, but the intrigue about her holds you until the final page.
Disturbing and raw, this reads more like a documentary than a piece of fiction.
4 Out of 5 Stars
Read With Me This Year:
What should I be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo
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