Tuesday, July 03, 2018

What I Read | June

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread
"The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries." 
- Rene Descartes


June was a slow month for my bookshelf, but I did pick up a few winners and a whole lot of books that left me scratching my head. Before we get into the reviews, I had a question. If you get a book for free, whether from a publisher, straight from the author, or through another channel, in exchange for a review, do you tend to give it a higher review because you got a free copy?

I've been noticing a trend in which book reviewers are automatically giving books four or five stars because it's an advance reading copy. This is just something I'm curious about... Happy reading, friends.

Must Read

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva  | ★★★★★
A haunting, diverse debut story collection that explores the isolation we experience in the face of the mysterious, often dangerous forces that shape our lives.


Anjali Sachdeva's debut collection spans centuries, continents, and a diverse set of characters but is united by each character's epic struggle with fate: A workman in Andrew Carnegie's steel mills is irrevocably changed by the brutal power of the furnaces; a fisherman sets sail into overfished waters and finds a secret obsession from which he can't return; an online date ends with a frightening, inexplicable disappearance. Her story "Pleiades" was called "a masterpiece" by Dave Eggers. Sachdeva has a talent for creating moving and poignant scenes, following her highly imaginative plots to their logical ends, and depicting how one small miracle can affect everyone in its wake.  - Goodreads description

Such a wonderful collection of short stories. There is so much range and depth in each of them and I was in love with Anjali's writing by the flip of the first page. The glass lung was my favorite, but it was difficult to choose just one because they are all phenomenal. I can't rave about this book enough. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Noteworthy

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo  | ★★★★★
Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family. - Goodreads description

This is the story of Yejide, a Nigerian woman who, in the 1980s, is unable to conceive a child for her husband, Akin. At the urging of his family, Akin takes a second wife in an attempt to have a family and Yejide struggles with his decision as well as her role as a woman, and one who is unable to fulfill her purpose. This book makes you think about what it means to be a woman and how motherhood plays into that and it resonated with me, as someone who has not had children. It is heartbreaking to follow Yejide's story as she fights to save her marriage, while both she and her husband go to extreme measures to have a child together, and how it affects their family. The ultimate story of love and loss, loyalty, and betrayal.

Other mentions for the month of June:

I'd Like You More if You Were More Like Me by John Ortberg  | ★★★★
A faith-based exploration of intimacy and how you can foster it in your relationships with your partner, family, friends, and God. Ortberg shares Scripture references and ties them in with his own stories to provide practical and applicable ways to become more intimate in your life. I love what he has to say about vulnerability and how it affects your ability to be intimate. Wonderful read. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Scars Across Humanity by Elaine Storkey  | ★★★★
A powerful account of the violence that women around the globe face every day, including child brides, female infanticide, honor killings, genital mutilation and physical and emotional abuse. Storkey's research is meticulous and she does a great job of sharing testimonials and then breaking down how these crimes are justified in different cultures and religions. Great book, but reading some of the details about how women are treated, made my blood boil. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Cavalier and His Lady (excerpts) by Mary Cavendish  | ★★★★
I read a selection of poems from Mary Cavendish (the lady) and found them to be smart and funny. I would definitely want to read William's work at some point.

Educated by Tara Westover  | ★★★
First, let me say that Tara Westover is a brilliant storyteller. I was engrossed in this book by the third sentence. It's a memoir of her life growing up in a secluded part of Idaho with her large family as they prepare for the end of days. Specifically, her strictly religious father believes the world will implode on Y2K and they spend their days stockpiling weapons, food, silver (instead of cash) and herbal remedies. He insists that the family lives off the grid, not allowing the children to attend school or go to the doctor, the younger of the children don't even have birth certificates since they were born at home. Where this book fell short for me, was when Tara grows up attends BYU. I find it a bit difficult to believe that someone who never had any formal education could get admitted to a college or university, but she did. This last quarter of this book just felt disjointed and things didn't add up for me. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Quirky by Melissa A. Schilling  | ★★★
Chock full of research about some of the world's greatest creative geniuses like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Marie Curie, this book is like a mini-biography of the idiosyncrasies of these brilliant people, and what made them different from any other person. Although I found the stories shared to be quite interesting, it was quite redundant in places. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Hour Game by David Baldacci  | ★★★
Serial killer or copycat? This novel was exciting and entertaining. One thing this book did for me was, make me aware of all the ways one could be inviting someone with malicious intent to take advantage of them, specifically, giving a serial killer access to the intimate details of their lives. Leaving ATM receipts in the trash, having your initials on a license plate, having residential/parking stickers on your windshield, leaving mail face up in your vehicle so anyone walking by could see your address, leaving keys unattended where an impression of them could easily be taken... All ways that someone could find out where you work or live, where your children go to school, what type of schedule or routine your keep, and therefore, making it easier for someone to follow you and cause you harm. Needless to say, I was a little paranoid after reading this book, but I'll be more aware of how not to fall into a killer's web.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit  | ★★★
This is a long-form essay featuring a collection of stories about men belittling women. It is both hilarious and infuriating. It drags a little bit, but it's quite informative and eye-opening. Overall a good read.

The Power by Naomi Alderman  | ★★★
I really loved the premise of this book - young women who have this electricity in them and have learned to harness and wield it at their will for their benefit, throughout the book, more and more women are developing this strange ability. There are elements of witchcraft, cults, politics, gender and role reversal all woven into the story. It's an extremely fast-paced book and you jump ahead in time a lot. There are a lot of primary and secondary characters and they span the globe, so you are hopping back and forth and there isn't a lot of strong character development. You only get snippets of their stories every few chapters and I wish we could have scaled back on the number of roles and focused more on just a few, fleshing out their stories a bit more. 

The Complete Poems by Catullus  | ★★★
Oh, Catullus... You horndog, you. 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe  | ★★★
This book was a little difficult to get into, but once I did, I thought it was good, but there isn't much happening. I did, however, really enjoy the story about the turtle with the broken shell. 

Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius  | ★★★
A very bizarre (romantic? But is it though?) Greek novel. Not for the faint of heart.

The Sonnets of Astrophel and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney  | ★★★
I only read a selection of the sonnets and I've heard from Sidney fans that you really need to read the whole collection to fully understand their context. The ones I did read, I found to be funny, a little pathetic, but enjoyable.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton  | ★★☆☆
Hmm... So many thoughts about this. I wanted to read this book because I know a lot of Christian women who swear by it, that it opened their eyes, so I needed to see what the fuss was about. I know of Glennon from her TEDtalk and from a few articles written about her, but I had not read anything that she had written. After reading a few chapters, I thought her writing was insufferable and self-indulgent. It was entirely too flowery and some of the platitudes she uses to describe her journey just didn't work for me. I thought the way she told her story glamorized bulimia, drinking, and drug abuse and she seemed to make light of mental illness. Throughout her life, she does what she believes people want from her. She's in school one day and after lunch, is unable to find an empty bathroom to vomit in, so instead goes to see the counselor and claims she's "broken." When interacting with friends and family after having an abortion, she writes, "I'm acting sad instead of feeling sad," because she's stopped feeling anything at all, she instead plays the part. Her father finds court papers for a DUI in her glove box and she is upset, not because she disappointed her father, but because she is worried that no one would continue to try to fix her. When her parents send her to see their priest for help with her laundry list of moral problems, she sits in the car and says, "I try to summon up some feelings. I'll need to cry for the priest, I'm sure of that." For the length of the book, I felt like she wanted people to feel sorry for her situation and then proud of her for turning her life around. As far as my quest to discover why Christian women were loving all over this book, I'm not sure why. God was only a last resort for her when everyone else put their hands up. This book was tedious and exhausting to read and I had a hard time taking it seriously.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah  | ★★☆☆
I was loving this book when I first started it. It completely drew me in and enraptured me. I got about a quarter of the way through and then it lost me. The story is about a girl who moves to the wilderness of Alaska with her parents when her nomadic father makes an impulsive decision to drag the family on a new adventure. Kristin Hannah is wonderful at painting the scene and bringing the story to life, and although she is known for writing lengthy novels, most of them can stand up to the excess of pages, like The Nightingale. This one, however, took a nosedive. Once the family arrives in Alaska and begins to establish their homestead, I lost all interest. I also found parts of it to be grotesque and a tad bit unbelievable. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Pamphilia and Amphilanthus/A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Love by Mary Wroth  | ★★☆☆
Poems about a woman who loves a man who cannot stay faithful to her. Meh.


What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | June first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!

23 comments:

  1. Hey Lecy! I'm shocked, and little sad I haven't crushed my reading goals like you have!!! I think I would LOVE the "Great Alone" I'm all for tales that instantly suck me in! Keep reading, and smashing your goals girl, it's so inspiring!! Thanks for sharing! xo

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  2. Stay With Me sounds like a good read, I'll have to add that one to my list. I always love your honest reviews. I appreciated your thoughts on Love Warrior. When I first read it I did enjoy it, but much of what I've read from Glennon since I'm not sure I'm a fan of. And I have no problem with her sexuality, but the end of Love Warrior is kind of how she saved her marriage...except she is no longer married. Just feels weird.

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  3. shootingstarsmagJuly 3, 2018 at 11:12 AM

    Definitely a nice mix of books! I'm not interested in reading Educated, but I know a lot of people seem to have loved it. It doesn't sound terribly realistic after awhile either, but who knows? I've heard people from her past are saying it's mostly lies, but I can't really judge that, obviously.

    As for your initial question - no, I don't rate higher because I got the book for free. I don't get a ton of review books, and I tend to request the ones I'm most likely to enjoy (so I just end up liking them like I thought I would) but I have requested books in the past that just didn't work for me and I've given them lower star ratings. However, I don't rate every book I read. I do a bit more on Goodreads, but on my blog, I don't tend to state star ratings.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  4. I absolutey have given 1 star to books provided by publishers. I have a 40 page rule. If I am 40 pages in, and can't get into it, I am out. I used to only do 20 pages but I did go back and try one book over (past page 20) and fell in love. So its 40 now. :-)
    And rarely is there a month where I've not read at least one of your books, but this month Zero.

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  5. Great list! I've never read any of these. Honestly, I haven't heard of many of them either haha but I'll have to add the to my reading list.

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  6. I just got The Power from the library, but returned it because I didn't hear the best things about it! I may get it again since you said you liked it! I hadn't heard of any of the other books besides The Great Alone, which is another one I've been considering grabbing. I may not get it since it doesn't sound like you loved it! It's always good to hear honest reviews instead of the reviews on Amazon that may or may not be real. So, thank you for this!

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  7. I hope you do! I loved the beginning of that book!

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  8. Yes, I agree with you. I thought it was strange that she was so adamant about saving her marriage and staying together, even though it didn't seem like she was happy, only to completely flip the script. I can't even begin to speculate what might have been going on there, but it was definitely something that made me second guess her intentions.

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  9. I hadn't heard all that about Educated, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of it was true. I'm glad to know there are people out there who give honest reviews for ARCs. It seems like there are few of us!

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  10. Wow, you show no mercy. That's awesome! I need to take a tip from you and set this rule!

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  11. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about both books. I tend to go back and forth with that the trend is. Hope you find a book you enjoy!

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  12. Maybe I should be nicer. I do put in there (usually) that just becsuse I couldn't get into it doesn't mean they couldn't. I just advise to wait for a sale or something

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  13. Wow! You read so many books last month, amazing job! I'm actually super surprised that I've only heard of one - Men Explains Things to Me - which I would really like to read, although I can see it making me really angry!

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  14. ohh i haven't read any of these! I really need to make more time for reading. I used to love it but stopped a couple of years ago. I go through phases where i binge like 7 books a month and then like 0-1 books a year lol

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  15. I love to see how much you read! I wish I had more time to read (and I say that as a librarian!) I like reading your reviews and adding to my very long to-read list!

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  16. Such a great list! I haven't read a book in a while. I'll add some to my reading list.

    Stay with Me sound very familiar.

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  17. I love reading, so I make time to read a lot and I enjoy reading on a wide range of topics. :)

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  18. I think everyone goes through stages like that. Even me!

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  19. Reading is one of my passions, so I have to make lots of time for it. :)

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  20. Hope you find a few new books to love!

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  21. I read Stay with me last month and thought it was really well-written (I think I gave it 4 stars).

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