Thursday, August 31, 2023

August Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in August:

  • Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse - Apparently, since I had listened to some true crime books recently, this one was recommended to me on my Hoopla app. This reads as part memoir, part true crime, yet all extremely powerful. The author has a "gift" wherein people share their secrets and confessions with her without any prompting or prodding (she just "has that type of face") - more often than not they are complete strangers. One such stranger turned out to be a lawyer and thought she would be PERFECT on his team. He wanted to hire her as a private investigator (she had zero experience, but he felt her "gift" would help folks involved in his cases open up and spill their guts). She took the job and eventually was put on a Title IX case that was taking on a large university. The case lasted over five years and was pretty heavy stuff (they were hoping to prove that because the culture of the football team {specifically} made women unsafe {due to rapes, harassment, etc} they could not get the same education as males, hence the landmark, civil rights case). With a history of sexual assault in her past, the case brings up many feelings and emotions that she needs to navigate while not allowing the case to overtake her life. The author does change names, places, etc as to protect the innocent, but if you look back into current events around that time you'll be able to put two and two together. I appreciate the care that she gives to victims, whether or not they choose to come forward. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston - I felt like it was time for a rom-com of sorts so I scrolled through the “Perfect Beach Books” list on my Hoopla app and this cover caught my eye because it mentioned the book was being turned into a movie. Now, although I think books are better than the movies 97% of the time, I assume they don’t choose craptastic books to adapt to the screen if they can help it, so I figured this one was probably good ;). This is the traditional plot of enemies turned friends turned significant others, but with the twist that the two involved are the first son (the son of the president of the United States) and the prince of England (even if he isn’t the one next in line for the crown). With that said, obviously there is more room for security, secrecy, and scandal than your average pair of twenty-something’s. You know what to expect and it's entertaining, which is exactly what I was looking for. It was a fun read and the movie will probably be good, but it was nothing amazing to write home about. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Becoming Free Indeed by Jinger Duggar Vuolo - The hubby and I had watched the "Duggar Documentary" (I believe it was called Shiny People or something along those lines) and I found it faciating, so when this book popped up in the popular section of my Hoopla app I figured I'd give it a shot. Now, I will say that at the beginning of the book (which is read by the author), she does say that it is not a "tell all", so I should've been clued in from the jump but I was still a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the documentary dug into quite a bit and I obviously believe people deserve to have their privacy (whether in the public eye or not), but I guess I was expecting a bit more. The majority of the book was about her faith (which I should have guessed from the subtitle), which was very open and honest, just not totally what I was expecting the whole thing to be about. I'd say it still read as very patriarchal, but that can sometimes come with the Christian culture. I did appreciate her explanations of "disentanglement" vs "deconstruction", as well as addressing how many young folks are leaving the church (or ideologies of their parents). She was also very bold in her critiques of Bill Gothard, which I was very surprised by because there are many people (including some in her family) that believe wholeheartedly what he teaches (and that it is Biblical truth). I was expecting more of a memoir, but for what it was, it was good (more of a Christian Living book than Memoir in my opinion). I would give it a 7 out of 10. 

  • Better Than We Found It by Frederick Joseph and Porsche Joseph - Obviously the title of this book grabbed my attention when I was scrolling through the "new" section of my Hoopla app. Technically this book is written for young people, but it was just as inspiring to me as hopefully it will be to them. This book is broken down into sixteen different topics that we could help to improve that would leave the world better than we found it - including topics such as police reform, homelessness, climate crisis, gun violence, homophobia, healthcare, etc. Although the topics can be complex, the authors break them down into digestible chunks and gives very focused ideas for solutions. They also realize that they are privileged to not have to have dealt with all of the issues they are discussing, so they turn to folks who can speak from their experiences in interviews. I appreciate that even though the book is obviously written with the authors' take on things, they open the book up to other people's experiences and expertise. I think it really helped show that often what we need to do is LISTEN. I also appreciated that the authors clearly mention that you do not have to tackle ALL of the issues. Find something you are passionate and do your best to make a difference. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • The Longest Race by Kara Goucher - I'm in a few "buy nothing" groups on Facebook (folks looking to trade or give some of their excess to others - whether it be local people or people with the same interests). I was offering up some nutrition that I had that I wasn't using and someone mentioned they were interested. I have had this on my Amazon wish list for a while so I asked if they had it - they didn't but they offered to have it sent through Amazon as a way to trade. Although I feel as though many people in the running world have heard (or at least is aware of) about the scandals surrounding Nike - whether to do with doping, their procedures around pregnancy, etc - it was still interesting and eye opening to hear Kara's first hand account of what she experienced. I'll be honest, I have never really liked Nike (and that's not just because Adidas [a major competitor of Nike] pays our bills [my hubby works for their golf marketing department]), so it's not like I needed a reason (or MANY) to dislike the way they handle business, but reading all of it did reinforce my dislike. I appreciate Kara's willingness to open up about these extremely intimate (and sometimes, at least in her mind, embarrassing) details. As with most "scandals", there are always going to be people out there who are going to doubt what happened, blame the victims, say the victims are looking for attention/ a pay out/ etc, but I absolutely believe what Kara (and many others) have said about the abuse and deceit within the organization. I might not keep this in my personal library (I'll probably trade it for another running book I haven't read), but it was still a very good (even though it was hard to read at times) book. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland - I saw this book on one of the banners that rotates through my Hoopla app (something about "read it before you watch it") and it caught my eye. As per usual, I had no idea what the book was about prior to hitting play. Because there was no type of trigger warning at the beginning, I would like to note that there is a lot of abuse (physical, mental and emotional) in this book. I'm not sure how exactly I feel about the book. I really enjoyed how each chapter was titled with a type of flower, which then gave some foreshadowing into what the following pages would be about, but the violence and toxic people were very draining. Maybe I needed to be in a different mindset before starting this one, but it was heavy and I wasn't expecting it. It was written wonderfully, it just wasn't my jam. I would give it a 7 out of 10. 

  • Heat Wave by TJ Klune - This is the third book in the Extraordinaries series and I was excited to see it was finally on my Hoopla app. Now, I would say I am normally not a superhero/ graphic novel fan, but this has sucked me in. Maybe it's because the "heroes" are teenagers, maybe it's because it's overly dramatic (and it allows me to get out of reality for a while), maybe it's because it's more of a YA genre with heroes thrown in, but whatever the case, I'm in - hook line and sinker (not to mention this author is AMAZEBALLS!). There were parts that had me laughing out loud (while on some of my runs - HA!) and other parts where I may have been tearing up. I love all of the characters (well, let me take that back, the villains are NOT my fave, but that's to be expected, right?!) and was rooting for them the entire time. The storyline is clever, the characters are creative and the topics covered are courageous. (I would say this one was the most "racy" of the series, but it makes sense seeing as the characters are maturing, growing in their relationships and coming into their own sexualities.) The only drawback that I could find was that the story is over (although I did appreciate the "later" to see where these high school students ended up 10ish years later). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon - Every once in a while I will get on my Hoopla app and click on different authors to see if they have released anything new (or maybe it just recently hit the app). I had searched for Nic Stone (hoping that her Dear Justyce was available) and saw that a few of my fave authors got together to collaborate on a book (actually two, but I ran out of downloads for the month so the second book will have to wait until September). Let me just start off by saying I have always enjoyed everything I've read from Tiffany, Nic and Angie, so I was stoked to give this a listen. I wasn't sure how all of the authors would come together, but I loved the idea. Each author focused on a different group of people (whether it was a granddaughter and grandfather, two best friends, a couple in a relationship, etc) and what happened during a short window of time. As the name implies, there is a blackout in New York and each of the authors tells about different folks during this crisis. I love how the stories overlap and how it was set up. The book takes place over the span of only a couple hours and is told chronologically through the eyes of different characters around the city, so although I would have loved the story to continue (would've loved to see how the relationships evolved), I get it. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, August has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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