Thursday, August 3, 2017

On the Bookshelf: A Summertime Round-Up

Even though it'll still feel like summertime here in Oklahoma for many weeks to come, I know that across the country, many people are jumping back into "back to school" events and are preparing for falltime. So, I figured I'd do a big ol' literature post to let y'all know what I've been reading this summer! As usual, there's a mix of fiction and non-fiction covering a variety of topics.

Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge. This was a fascinating mythological-ish take on the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. The characters were vivid, and the story was really engaging. I don't read mythology too often, so I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of Nyx (the main character) getting married to a demon-ruler. I was also a bit conflicted about the ending, too. But, this was a really interesting, unique take on one of my favorite fairy tales, and I did enjoy it!

Unashamed, by Christine Caine. This was a lovely book about letting go of the baggage that we carry and being unashamed of ourselves and clinging to Christ. I particularly loved the section that focuses on the story of the woman in the Gospels who was suffering from hemorrhages. 

The innkeeper of Ivy Hill, by Julie Klassen. This was a delightful book written in the style of Cranford or some other series like that. Just ordinary people in a quaint town, going about their daily lives. I really liked this one-it was a pretty cute read! 

Laybe Maybe, by Julie Klassen. I like a lot of what Julie Klassen writes, because it's fun, innocent, lighthearted reading. I usually don't mind the fairy-predictable plots, but this one was just a little too predictable and it really wasn't my favorite.

The Sabbath World, by Judith Shulevitz. This was a well-researched look at the history of the Sabbath in Judaism and the development of the Sabbath celebrations in Christianity, particularly in American history. As someone who is passionate about Sunday leisure, I really enjoyed learning about this history. I had never heard of some of the topics discussed, like blue laws, and it was just very enlightening. I recommend it! 

The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher. I have to confess, I liked this book more than I thought I would, and I agreed with more than I thought I would. I found Dreher's book to be less-alarmist than others have been making it out to be, though it still is a little too alarmist in my opinion. I disagree with some of his ideas about Christians needing to pull back from society, but there's lots of good stuff to talk about and ponder in here. I definitely recommend reading it and discussing it with others! 

The Yellow Envelope, by Kim Dinan. This book is a fascinating travel memoir about a time when Dinan and her husband left their cushy lives to travel the world. Before they left, some good friends gave them a yellow envelope that contained a sum of money in it. They were to use this money to better the world, in whatever way they saw fit. The book follows them throughout their adventures and it discusses the ways that their view towards others changed, as well as how their marriage was affected. I really liked this book! 

Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life, by George Brescia. This was the first style book I've ever read, and I enjoyed it! It was very easy-to-read, and some of the ideas seemed fairly common-sense, but there were some great tips in here and some good discussion about how what we wear affects us and others. 

The Curated Closet, by Anuschka Rees. This was a great, in-depth look at how to work with one's wardrobe. I really liked that the author discussed the importance of cultivating your style, and not simply following the "fashion rules" and the articles that try to tell you what items you need in your wardrobe. I didn't take the time to go through the whole Curated Closet process, but I did some of the activities and it was really helpful to me! 

All But My Life, by Gerda Weissmann Klein. This book was excellent. Klein survived the Holocaust, and this book tells her story. I really don't know what else I can say about this except that y'all need to read it, and I need to read the other books that she's written. 

Back to the Batcave, by Adam West. I love the 1960s Batman shows and movie, and I was very sad to hear that Adam West died a few months ago. This book, which details West's career before, during, and after Batman, was a delight to read. There were some fabulous little details and stories about filming Batman which I loved. I could have done without all of the discussion of West's sexual encounters and relationships (though this is a celebrity memoir, so I wasn't completely surprised), but overall I really enjoyed reading this! 

Whose Names are Unknown, by Sanora Babb. This is a fantastic little book about farmers during the Great Depression who were fleeing the dust storms. The writing was beautiful, the story was really interesting, and most importantly, there was hope. Apparently this book was not published when it was written, because Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath had come out, and I guess the nation couldn't handle TWO books on a similar topic (pity, because I have to confess that I don't really enjoy Steinbeck's writing). Later on, it was published, and I am grateful.  

The Gardener of Versailles, by Alain Baraton.  Baraton is the head gardener of Versailles, and in this book he discusses how he got into the business of gardening and his relationship with the garden, as well as different details of the history of Versailles. It was really, really interesting! There is some sexual content (apparently a number of people have sex in the gardens?!?!?!) and I felt that there was a little too much included for my taste, but otherwise I liked this book fairly well. 

The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth. This story follows Anna, a woman in her late 30s who is experiencing early-onset dementia and goes to live in a care facility.The story also follows a couple of other characters, and each viewpoint is told in first person (present-tense, if I remember correctly) which can get a little confusing, but it's not overly difficult to follow. Anyways, I thought this was a really interesting story idea, and I like how it focuses on the dignity of people with dementia. BUT, I am super conflicted about this book from a moral standpoint. I won't give things away here, but there are interesting circumstances that arise regarding romantic relationships among people with dementia, and I, as a Catholic woman, do not like how some of these circumstances were dealt with. But how to deal with them? (If any of you read this and have thoughts, please share them with me!) 

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh. This is a chilling book about a woman whose young son is killed in a hit-and-run and the driver of the car (who fled the scene) dealing with the consequences. It was extremely sad, but really interesting, and it sheds some light on the horrific reality of sexual and physical abuse that many women face. There is some semi-explicit content and scenes with rape and abuse in here. I enjoyed this book, and sped through it.  

The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide. This is a lovely book about a Japanese couple who is visited by a cat from a neighboring house. It follows their relationship with the cat over time, and ultimately talks about how their lives were affected. It was a small book, a quick read, and quite lovely and poetic. I really enjoyed it! 

Emma, by Jane Austen. This was a re-read, but it was only the second time that I have read Emma (I know, I just wasn't my favorite book when I was younger, so I didn't pull it out much). Well, coming back to this book, I completely fell in love with it and I've decided that Mr. Knightley is better than Mr. Darcy. Please try not to be too scandalized by that revelation. 

I hope you enjoyed glancing over my summertime reads! If you have any recommendations, please send them my way :) 


  1. And just like that, my list got longer! Thanks!

  2. Oooh a bunch of these sound good! THe Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is going to my to read list for sure!