March 2017 Wrap Up

This is what I was able to read in March…I read 4 books, listened to 1 audiobook, and read 2 graphic novels, for a grand total of: 7!

Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

  • Sweet. Compelling. Just what I needed.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (audiobook)

  • Funny. Relevant to today. Meh narrator.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Boston, Massachusetts
  • My rating: 4 stars

Summerlost by Ally Condie

  • Tragic, yet hope filled. Theatre.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Utah
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

Booked by Kwame Alexander

  • Novel in verse. Soccer. Family.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

  • Sucked me in. Somewhat predictable. Movie out soon.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Los Angeles, California
  • My rating: 4 stars

Redwall: The Graphic Novel by S. Moore, B. Jacques, B. Blevins, R. Starkings

  • New-to-me story. Cute at times. Hard to follow.
  • My rating: 3.5 stars

Saga: Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan

  • Lots of action. Cliffhanger ending. More emotional than the others.
  • My rating: 4 stars

What did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

“Doubt and defeat have no place in the sacred sanctuary of your heart.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love. In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection—from the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father to the perceived judgment of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over. With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers: Release the desire to fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process their hurt; Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady their soul and restore their confidence; Overcome the two core fears that feed our insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging; Stop feeling left out and start believing that “set apart” does not mean “set aside.” End the cycle of perceived rejection by refusing to turn a small incident into a full blown issue.

Feelings: Sometimes I struggle with non-fiction. It’s hard for me to get into the flow or get used to the writer’s tone. And I start longing for a good plot. Give me a conflict and falling action any day. But then other times I need words of encouragement or a perspective shift. That’s where non-fiction comes in to play. Christian non-fiction is usually what I reach for when I’m in this mood and I’d heard great things about Lysa’s Uninvited.

There are a lot of things that Lysa does well in this book. Each chapter is formatted in a similar way – starting a story or anecdote, digging into scripture, closing the story with hope and practical application – making her ideas easy to track with. Her writing voice is so inviting and she gets downright vulnerable in her honesty, so I trusted every word she said. I felt like she understood my struggles. This trusting voice also led to a lot of affirmations. She reminded me that my life and my voice are beautiful and that I was created to be pursued and for pursuit. There’s a lot of hope in this book, friends.

Takeaways: I highlighted SO MANY things from this book. One of my greatest takeaways, though, where the prayers she lists out. For the times in our life that feel in-between, Lysa shares 10 different prayers we can use and apply in our lives. I copied all of them down in the notes app of my phone so I can keep them close by and at the ready. She also provides questions to ask when we get to these points and to difficult moments in any relationship. I found these to be really practical and relevant.

This book is about the aftermath of rejection and how we cope with it. How do we approach life after feeling tossed into a pit? Lysa reminds us that rejection isn’t the end, the destination. It can be a delay or a pitstop, but it’s never the end of the course. We are destined for something so much greater. There’s a lot we can learn from these seasons and she gives us some things to remember during these times.

Final thoughts: I think this is a great read. Lysa’s ideas and voice are easy to follow, poignant, and gritty. She doesn’t dumb things down or scold – nothing like that. Her writing, instead, is more like a hug mixed with some hard truths. As a side note, I wouldn’t recommend the audiobook necessarily. I found it to be done in a cheesy, kind of annoying way. I started with the audio, but ultimately switched to the ebook version…also because I wanted to be able to highlight and make notes!

Pick this up if you liked:

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

Goodreads rating: 4.35/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

May I Have Your Attention, Please? (audiobook) by James Corden

“The difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something.”

attention-please

Synopsis from GoodreadsAs far back as he can remember James Corden has only ever wanted to be in one place: in front of you, doing something to make you cry, shout, scream or giggle uncontrollably; whether it’s entertaining the congregation at his baby sister’s christening at the age of four, clowning around in class, or snogging Sue Barker in front of thousands of people at Sports Relief. May I Have Your Attention Please? Is the story of how it all happened. From his time as one of the founding players of his school’s first ever rugby team to nationwide fame as the loveably loud Smithy in the award-winning Gavin and Stacey, this is a tenderly — and very funnily — told story of what it’s like to try, try and try again and get there in the end.

Feelings: This book was okay. Going into this book, I really didn’t know much about James Corden and unfortunately, I was coming off the high that Trevor Noah’s audiobook had given me. So I may have unfairly compared them, which you just can’t do.

There were some parts that made me laugh out loud and others that brought a smile to my face. At some points, I got distracted and was only half listening, while at other points I just had to turn it off. My response from beginning to end was kind of all over the place. However, I did enjoy the last few chapters when he talked about his experience working with celebrities for charity sketches. Then I immediately looked the sketches up on YouTube.

When he got to his experience with “The History Boys”, I was really interested. I actually didn’t know it started as a play, but I’ve seen the movie many times!

Issues: I was surprised by the amount of negativity and apologies. He apologized to people from his past and he apologized to the reader. This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to books. If you have to apologize for something being boring, either make it more interesting or take it out. When he made this specific apology in the book, I thought…huh…he’s right…that was boring. I guess I was just expecting him to be much lighter, after watching him on The Late Late Show.

I was expecting it to be…funnier? I’m not sure why, I mean…it’s about his life, not a book of jokes. Sometimes it just felt like a timeline, while at other points it was just repeating something that had already been stated. When I just had 3 hours left in the audiobook, I wasn’t nearly as interested as I had been at first.

The way he talked about his work was weird. We’d go from him discussing his role in Fat Friends and being in a stage show, then how he’d be in The History Boys and oh yeah, another film role at the same time. It was just kind of hard to follow because he’d go from talking about one work which would remind him of something else and he’d tell us a story about it. I kept wondering…wait what show are we talking about now?

Narrator: I did enjoy the fact that Corden narrated it, himself. His accent and gusto made it easy to listen to. Plus he does all the different accents for people from other parts of Britain, and as an American…if I’d just been reading it, I wouldn’t have known the differences between voices. As a narrator, I’d give James Corden 4.5 stars.

Final thoughts: If you’re a huge fan of James Corden, then sure…pick this up. If you just like watching his carpool karaoke videos, maybe skip this one. It wasn’t what I was hoping, as a fan of his late night bits.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.86/5

Audible.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audiobook)

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

born-a-crime

Synopsis from GoodreadsTrevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Feelings: This audiobook was the highest-rated new book of 2016 by Audible customers and was the winner of Audible’s Best of 2016 – Celebrity Memoirs. And I completely understand why. I’m a fan of Trevor Noah. I especially kept up with The Daily Show during the presidential election process. He has a way of sifting through the political BS and in a way, he made sure I was really seeing what was going on. He has such a unique perspective, which you learn all about in this book, and I now have a deeper understanding of where he’s coming from during his commentary on American politics and culture.

He has a great ability to paint a picture of a world I’ve never experienced. In no way can I say that I now suddenly totally understand what it’s like to be considered colored in South Africa, but I do finally have a surface level understanding…which is more than I had before. I also was completely unaware of the number of languages and stigmatisms throughout South Africa. In the book, he talks about how black people in South Africa hated John Cecil Rhodes more than Hitler, because of the difference in impact for their people and I wanted to hide under a rock. (See my last name to understand.) I’d always heard that he “founded” or “established” Zimbabwe (once called Rhodesia), but I was completely naive to the negative side of what he did. Now I”m interested in learning more about someone who may have been my ancestor.

Issues: When I picked up this audiobook, I’d just finished another collection of essays. I think this may have tainted my experience with this book. The only issue I really had was with the way the essays were organized. I tried to figure out why they were in the order that they were, but I couldn’t really track with it. They weren’t necessarily in time order, so sometimes it took me a minute to figure out when it was in relation to what he’d already shared.

Narration: No one else could have done this book justice. His accent and personality make this an easy listening book. He does different voices for the people he quotes, speaks in multiple languages, and adds little quirks that, to me, have become trademark Trevor Noah. Rating him as a narrator independent from the actual story, I’d give him 5 stars.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this audiobook. I think it would be great on its own, if you aren’t into audiobooks, but his narration really adds something special. I’m now really interested in audiobooks from authors who had very different experiences for me. There’s something about hearing it in their own voice that adds more life to their story. I also want to say, that even if you don’t watch The Daily Show for whatever reason, this book isn’t loaded with political commentary. So it’s still a great read.

This is a great video posted by Audible.com where he talks about his writing process!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.57/5

Audible.com rating: 4.9/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham

“But life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called vending machine.”

lauren-graham

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn her first work of nonfiction, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood recounts her experiences on Gilmore Girls – the first and second times – and shares stories about life, love, and working in Hollywood. This collection of essays is written in the intimate, hilarious, and down-to-earth voice that made her novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, a New York Times best seller. “This book contains some stories from my life: the awkward growing up years, the confusing dating years, the fulfilling working years, and what it was like to be asked to play one of my favorite characters again. You probably think I’m talking about my incredible achievement as Dolly in Hello, Dolly! as a Langley High School junior, a performance my dad called ‘you’re so much taller than the other kids.’ But no! I’m talking about Lorelai Gilmore, who, back in 2008, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again. Also included: tales of living on a houseboat, meeting guys at awards shows, and that time I was asked to be a butt model. A hint: all three made me seasick.”

Feelings: There were a lot of great moments in this book. I’m talking about nuggets of pure gold hilarity that let me to literally laughing out loud in my car or while I was folding laundry. Lauren Graham has a way of writing and reading in a way that makes you feel close to her, like you’re old friends and you’ve always been this way. There was 1 chapter in particular where I felt like she was speaking directly to me, encouraging me in the exact way that I needed her to.

One thing I really appreciated about this book was Lauren’s candidness. (I’m calling her Lauren. Look at us, we’re friends already!) She talks about what interviews are like, how Hollywood people view food and what not to eat/wear/exercise with, and she reveals what the casting and network communication process is like. Those are things that most of us wonder, but never really get insight into. I also loved when she talked about the writing process. I’ve always tossed around the idea of writing a book, but just thinking about the time commitment and pressure stresses me out. She gave me some really practical ideas.

Issues: She references pictures like 20 times. That’s a downside to the audiobook specifically because we got zero visuals. Sometimes when you get an audiobook, you also get something to download that shows you pictures of footnotes. That would have been really nice to have with this book. (You guys….after posting this review, I realized that when you get the audiobook, you also get a PDF of all the pictures. Would have been nice to know that sooner! So my advice is to make sure you download them BEFORE you hit that play button.)

She covered quite a few topics and seasons of her life throughout this collection of essays. However, she doesn’t really dig too terribly deep in any of them. She digs deep into her memory bank, yes, but it all ended up staying on the surface level overall.

Finally, she talks about the time crunch she was under the write the book MULTIPLE times. In the end, it made me feel like she was rushing just to finish. I mean I get it..she had a lot going on…but it took away from the realness and warmth of the book itself to constantly remind us that she needs to hurry and finish.

Narrator: I love when authors narrate their own audiobooks especially when it’s a work of non-fiction. We as human beings are able to relate our own memories better than anyone else ever could. As a narrator, independent of the writing itself, I’d give Lauren Graham 5 stars. She’s quirky and funny. Her voice changes as the tone in the writing does. She made me laugh out loud and sit in my car before work to mop up my tears. I probably wouldn’t have had the same reaction if I’d been reading the print version on my own.

Final thoughts: If you’re a fan of Gilmore Girls or Parenthood (especially if you’re fans of both) then I’d recommend this book simply for the insights into behind the scenes of those shows. If you’re interested in a short, fun audiobook listen then I’d recommend this book. Overall, I really enjoyed this book!

Pick this up if you liked:

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Goodreads rating: 4.15/5

Audible.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

“Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in awhile you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.”

call-the-midwife

Synopsis from GoodreadsAn unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.

Feelings: I love this series on PBS; I probably cry every episode. I knew that at some point I’d want to pick up the book that started it all. I wanted to see if there was anything left out or really, just how different it was. Jennifer Worth is someone that I liked at the beginning of season 1 and then after a while, I felt myself drifting apart from her. I wanted to reconnect with her through her memoirs and that’s just what happened.

I find midwifery to be fascinating. I wasn’t bored by any of Jenny’s stories. Each patient and baby had a unique experience and outcome. Knowing that these were true stories was really eye opening. As an American, I’m not all that familiar with the history of English life so I really learned a lot from this book.

Issues: Nearly the first half of the book had a great flow. Each chapter had a new topic and was a story all on its own. Then we got to the part about Mary and suddenly the whole tone of the book shifted. It had been up to that point full of hope and life, while still being honest about the suffering that was happening in the East End. Mary’s story, while really interesting, was kind of a detour. It could have been the topic of a book in itself, but in this book it just derailed what was going on. And when Mary’s story was over, we shifted back to how the book flowed before.

Characters: Jenny has such a strong voice. Her narrations and ways of telling stories were inviting, while also being full of lessons and truth. She weaves together history, medical terminology, tales of heartbreak, and moments of love and laughter. Even as a memoir, we see a lot of character growth from beginning to end. She shows us how what she experienced shaped her through her adult life.

I love the Sisters of Nonnatus House. Each one is unique and special, with their own stories and histories. It was interesting to read the perspective of these Sisters from someone who was outside their religion. She tells their stories with reverence and openness.

I would have liked to learn more about the other nurses that she worked with: Cynthia, Trixie, and Chummy. We do learn a bit about Chummy’s life and where she was coming from. Having watched the show, I already felt like I knew these characters, but without that background knowledge, I wouldn’t have known anything about Cynthia and Trixie.

Comparisons: Sister Monica Joan! Cynthia! Sister Bernadette! The gang’s all here in this book. Trixie is there, but she’s rarely in the stories, unlike in the show. Chummy meets a police officer, but it doesn’t play out like it does in the show. I think overall, the show does a really great job of capturing the heart of Jenny’s experiences in the East End.

Final thoughts: This book is not for the faint at heart. Meaning: If you’re squeamish when it comes to anatomy and how babies are made and born…part of me wants to say “look elsewhere” and the other part wants to recommend this book to you. Ha! I’m looking forward to picking up the next book and learning more!

Goodreads rating: 4.17/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Final Reading Challenge Update

I’d planned on this being my 3rd of 4 total reading challenge updates for the year, but…I’M FINISHED. That’s right, friends. I have completed my reading challenge for 2016. This year, I was motivated to complete the challenge, but to BE challenged. This list didn’t encourage me to look for certain types of books, but rather to read what I wanted and see how I could fit it into the challenge.

I’m wanting to do something different for 2017. I don’t think I want to do a list of challenges like this for the third year in a row. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, check out the list of 50 books below! For books that I wrote full reviews on, I’ve included the link to that page!

Challenges completed: 50/50

  1. A winner from the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards – Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (read my full review HERE)
  2. A book about books – Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (read my full review HERE)
  3. A book from the Rory Gilmore Challenge – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  4. A book with one of the 5 W’s in the title (who/what/when/where/why) – What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  5. A book set more than 100 years ago – An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers (read my full review HERE)
  6. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you – The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (read my full review HERE)
  7. A book by an author who writes under more than one name – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling  (read my full review HERE)
  8. A fairytale from a culture other than your own – The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (I Googled “fairytale” and according to the world wide web, “myth” is a synonym for “fairytale”. So it’s a stretch, but I’m running with it.) (read my full review HERE)
  9. A historical fiction book – The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson (read my full review HERE)
  10. An award winning book (ex: Newberry Medal, National Book Award, etc.) – Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (read my full review HERE)
  11. A book you’re embarrassed to read in public – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (read my full review HERE)
  12. A book published in 2016 – Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (read my full review HERE)
  13. A book with a blue spine or cover – Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (read my full review HERE)
  14. A book with a horrible/ugly cover – Nothing But the Truth by Avi
  15. A book picked for you by someone else – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (read my full review HERE)
  16. A favorite book you read for a second time – A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (read my full review HERE)
  17. A book you feel that everyone has read but you – Wolf by Wolf  by Ryan Graudin (read my full review HERE)
  18. A book recommended by a famous person – For the Love by Jen Hatmaker (read my full review HERE)
  19. A book you know nothing about – Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  20. A book set in the country of your ancestors – An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus (read my full review HERE)
  21. A book with a child as the main character – Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  22. A book with an unreliable narrator – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (read my full review HERE)
  23. A book whose main character shares your name (first, middle, or last) – Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  24. A book set during a war (historical or fictional war) – Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
  25. A chick-lit book – This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  26. A book written before you were born – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (read my full review HERE)
  27. A collection of poems – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (While it may not be a “collection” of poems, there were poems throughout it. So I’m counting it. Ha!) (read my full review HERE)
  28. A book outside your comfort zone (genre, topic, number of pages, etc.) –The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin (read my full review HERE)
  29. A book about second chances – Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado (read my full review HERE)
  30. A prequel to a book series – Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (read my full review HERE)
  31. A book that has more than one author – Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  32. A book by an author who is from a different country – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (read my full review HERE)
  33. A book that’s an author’s debut novel – That Summer by Sarah Dessen
  34. A book that you got for free – Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson
  35. A book that was made into a movie, TV series, or mini-series – Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen [Movie version = How to Deal] (read my full review HERE)
  36. A play that was adapted into a musical or a movie – Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw
  37. A book that’s on the bestseller list – Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  38. A book spun off from another book – The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis
  39. A book that made you laugh out loud – Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs (read my full review HERE)
  40. An audiobook –Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (read my full review HERE)
  41. A book your grandma (or other family member) loves – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  42. A book with a nonhuman protagonist – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (read my full review HERE)
  43. A book that takes place at a university – The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright (read my full review HERE)
  44. A mystery or thriller – I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  45. A book recommended by a blog or Booktube video – Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, & Maureen Johnson (read my full review HERE)
  46. A book that takes place during a holiday – Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (read my full review HERE)
  47. A book you own, but haven’t read – The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  48. A book that you’ve “been meaning to read” – Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson
  49. A book you read with a friend or a book club – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (read my full review HERE)
  50. A book you saw someone reading – Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (read my full review HERE)

 Are you working towards completing a reading challenge? Do you have any recommendations for a 2017 Reading Challenge? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn