Thursday, October 31, 2019

October Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 2017 and 77 in 2018!) has morphed into this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;) {PS One of my goals for 2019 is to read 19 books, let's see how many times over I can do that.}

There were FORTY-EIGHT books in the first eight month, so when I add October's TEN that brings my total for 2019 to FIFTY-EIGHT thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I would rate them and whether I would recommend you giving them a read or not), make sure to check out my previous monthly book recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's BooksApril's BooksMay's BooksJune's BooksJuly's BooksAugust's Books, September's Books}

  • The Only Kayak by Kim Heacox - A friend of mine mentioned this book was the best book he read all summer... and with that endorsement you know I had to grab it from the library. I didn't know anything about it, other than he loved it, but that was enough for me. What I found in this book was not only an author's love for Alaska, land preservation and conservation, but beautiful words that made me yearn for the outdoors. I've never been to Alaska (my parents did take a cruise there earlier this year), but I can definitely see the allure in the beauty and wildness. Once I started this book I had a hard time putting it down (the only reason I did was only because I started it late in the afternoon and had to go to bed... I ended up finishing it the following morning). I appreciate that the author weaves environmental issues into his personal journey. I'm slightly nervous to recommend this book to the hubby because he already has a dream to become a park ranger and I think this might tip him over the edge and get us shipped up to the great north ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo - Oh golly gee, I feel like a broken record, but I'm not sure where I saw this title (it might have been on a friend's IG story or maybe a "must read" list), but whatever the reason I threw it on my recent check-out pile from the library. Well, let's just say this wasn't necessarily my jam. As you probably have noticed, I am not all that keen on the "scandalous" topics when it comes to the books I read (which is probably why I tend to stick with the YA genre), but that is pretty much all this book was about. The concept was interesting - the author followed three real women for eight years through different periods in their lives and "reported" on it, but for the most part it revolved around the sex they were or weren't having in their lives. The author's hope was to focus on the topic of "desire", but the way that read (at least to me) was sex, sex and more sex. Now maybe had I known what the book was about before I checked it out I would have been a little more prepared (or not have grabbed it in the first place), but I guess I was caught a little off guard (I guess you can call me a prude...). Recently I haven't had an issue stopping a book if it doesn't grab my attention in the first few chapters, but I kept holding out hope that the stories of these women would change and head in a different direction... Well, they didn't. Again, I thought it was well written and interesting (quite the broad array of women in the book), but it wasn't my cup of tea. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel - After sharing my book recap last month, a friend mention that she had just read this book, loved it and was now sharing it with everyone who asked for book recommendations. I didn't know what it was about, but the rave review made me snag it from the library and give it a try. And I am so glad I did. I absolutely loved this book. It was the story of a gender nonconforming child and their journey (along with the journey of their family and friends) while navigating life. Although the author does have a transgendered child, she says the story was inspired by her child but is still very much a tale of fiction. Whatever the case, I think this is a topic that doesn't get much attention, yet is extremely important, needs more representation and should be talked about (openly, actively and positively). I love how supportive this family was, but at the same time, even with all of the positivity they provided, things were still extremely difficult. Familial acceptance doesn't make everything rainbows and unicorns, but it sure does appear to be a make or break factor in a lot of kids' lives in the LGBTQ community. Even though the topic is a serious one, there's a light-heartedness and playful spirit throughout which I appreciated. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent - This was another book that was recommended to me when I shared the books I read in September. I was warned that the story included abuse and incest, but other than that I didn't know anything about it when I grabbed it from the library. I'm not sure why, but for some reason this book never really "grabbed" me. Maybe it was all of the talk about guns (which I am very anti) or the fact that I could never really connect with the main character. I was actually very surprised to see all of the positive endorsements for this book because it felt horrific, shocking and somewhat unbelievable in my opinion. I wouldn't say it was the worst book I've read, but I definitely won't be recommending it to others as a great read. I still pushed through and read it all (even though I probably could have saved myself a few hours and returned it uncompleted), but I never found anything really redeeming in the book. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

  • Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris - Hmmm... this was another book recommended to me after last month's recap and I had high hopes for it. This was the story about the bike journey a woman and her friend took along the Silk Road. Like the previous book, this never really grabbed me. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen, but there wasn't much. It was hot, it was rainy, it was hard to find places to sleep, etc. I can't imagine biking for a year straight, don't get me wrong, so the feat in and of itself was pretty amazing, but the story about it wasn't overly engaging. It was pretty slow going and I think had I had another book already checked out from the library I might not have finished this one. I appreciated some of the self-discovery conclusions she made throughout the journey, but other than that I was left wanting more. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

  • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - A friend of mine had recently finished this novel and mentioned she would give it a 9 out of 10, so I figured I would grab it from the library. Originally when she shared about it on her IG stories I saw the quote on the bottom of the cover mentioned you should be prepared to be scared... Well, I don't like anything scary so I double checked with her and she said it was more of a suspense thriller than a horror, so I decided to give it a go. I started it while I was waiting in live at the DMV (Pro Tip: Never go to the DMV without something to keep you entertained) and ended up finishing it the following day. Like my friend mentioned, it wasn't scary, but kept you on your toes. I'm not sure if it's because I grew up on Law & Order or not, but I sort of guessed the outcome of the book about halfway through. Even though I had an idea of where the story was going (which turned out to be spot on), I still kept reading and stayed engaged. I believe they are turning the book into a movie, which I'm sure will be suspenseful, but, honestly, nothing too shocking. If you like suspenseful books, I'm sure you will enjoy this, but I found it a bit predictable (at least in my opinion), even if it was still entertaining. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers - A few weeks before the Ventura Marathon the hubby decided he was going to sit the trip out so he could stay home and work on home stuff (we are oh-so-close with having everything done). Since he wasn't going to come, I figured I'd listen to an audio book on the drive there and back. I did a Google search for the best 6ish hour audio books (since it normally takes about 3-4 hours depending on the traffic to get to Ventura). This title appeared on the list, although it did say it was slightly longer than the 6 hour time limit for the article. It was available at the library so I snagged it and popped in the first CD once I left the house. Like most of the books I grab, I didn't know anything about it when I started listening. It turned out to be a story about a missing girl, written in the format of a crime podcast. The hubby and I enjoy listening to those types of podcasts on road trips, so I thought this was awesome. I also think it went well with the audio book format because they had different actors reading the different parts (over 30 voices in total). At times I forgot I was listening to a book and thought it was a legit podcast. The story would flip back and forth between the podcaster and the girl who was missing, Sadie. Real talk, I was a little bummed at the end (mostly because I like when writers wrap up their stories in a pretty bow and this one definitely had some unfinished business), but all in all I thought it was great. It is in the Young Adult genre, but I still felt as though it was realistic with just enough shock and suspense thrown in. It definitely has some triggering topics, with serious subjects including child abuse, sexual assault, physical violence. And even though this is a novel, it seemed to have some undertones about society as a whole today - how people tend to be too wrapped up in their own busy lives to pay attention to those around them, how often times girls don't feel safe and how kids are asked to grow up faster and faster. I think I would have enjoyed this just the same had I read the physical book instead of listening to it, but do think the audio format was great. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado - I've read a few of Max's many books in the past, so when I saw this recent release pop up on a popular list I put a hold on it at our library. It was a very quick read (I think it's only about 150 pages with an additional 20 or so at the end with "questions for thought" if you were doing this as part of a study or wanted to dig a little deeper), I finished it in just a couple hours. Max walks through his tips on how to find lasting joy in a world full of comparison, disappointment and unmet expectations. He breaks it down into 10 points, all of which can be found within scripture. The underlying theme through the book seems to be giving. Like the old adage says "it's better to give than to receive" and the more we give the happier we become. I really like the "Happiness Challenge" he extends at the end of the book, where he suggests folks to take 40 days and try to alter the joy level in at least 100 people (and keep a journal about the encounter). He believes that not only can you change your world, but it'll change you in the process as well. I'm thinking it's a great idea, now I just need to get a journal so I can keep track of it all! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan - A week or so ago I had seen a friend on Facebook ask her friends what the best or most impactful book they had read recently was... so obviously I had to scan the list and add a few to my "must read" list. This was one of the first ones that became available at the library and I was stoked. The bi-line said "one gift, three rules and a life-changing journey around the world". I was hooked before I even opened the cover... and it did not disappoint. I love stories about travel and this was right up my alley. The author and her husband sold all of their stuff, quit their jobs and hit the road. Before they left on their epic adventure two of their friends gave them a gift - a yellow envelope with a check to "do good" on their travels. As with all "real life", the story has its fair share of ups and downs (and a lot of relational drama which was a tad much at times), but man I couldn't put the book down. Not only did I enjoy reading about the couple's trip, I absolutely loved reading about how/ why/ when they decided to give away the money they had received. This couple truly learned how impactful and transformative giving, not just of money but also of themselves, could be. Side note - I also appreciated the author's delineation between tourist and traveler. The book even comes with a yellow envelope so you can do it to - how awesome is that?! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - I think this book was recommended to me on Amazon when I was adding past books to my "Books I've Read" list. I didn't know anything about it before I grabbed it (like most of the books I read), but did see it was turned into a major motion picture, so I guess I'll have to see if I can find it on one of our streaming accounts. Anywho, this was a fun (and quick, I read it in an afternoon even though it is over 300 pages) read. It's about a quirky mom who disappears amongst some interesting circumstances. The layout of the novel is rather unique, told through emails, faxes, police reports, hand written letters, etc. I feel like it could be a Real Housewives of Silicon Valley (or Seattle, since that's where it's based) - with a mix of drama, outlandish and kooky. It may not be my normal genre of read, but it was entertaining (would probably be a great beach book during the summer or on a vacation). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, October has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

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