April 2019 Reading

A thought before we get into my April reading: I really believe reading shouldn’t be a chore, or for the sake of numbers. So yes, I want to be intentional about books and it would be great if I met my goal of reading 100 this year, but I’m also not going to force myself to read just to say I did it.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This novel wasn’t what I was expecting. I knew there would be a twist; the title and the synopsis point to this, and it was part of the appeal in reading it in the first place. But I never guessed the twist would be what it was.

Mysterious, intriguing, tragic; We Were Liars had it all. The build was perfectly paced; I didn’t want to put the book down and the ending didn’t feel rushed or too sudden.

This is one of those bizarre cases where the characters aren’t that likeable but the writing is fantastic, so it’s hard to know whether I actually enjoyed the book or not. I loved the descriptions; the metaphors surrounding emotions were incredibly powerful, and the narrator’s voice was captivating.

Well done, though I don’t think I want to read this again.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Creating a Beautiful Life: A Woman’s Guide to Good-Better-Best Decision Making by Elizabeth George

Whilst I believe that the holy spirit moves us to better decision making and convicts us of where our lives might be lacking, or not giving God glory, sometimes it’s nice to read a Christian book with a list.

I find lists a good way to process information, to understand what I’m supposed to be learning. Having different sections in each chapter makes for a well paced book.

And whilst improving our lives isn’t always as easy as following a list (how many times do I try to follow such things only to fall short?), books such as this are motivating, and always have a take away, even if you don’t follow everything precisely. We can learn from the points in this book, but should also remember that God doesn’t want us to strive for perfection: He wants us to be loved by Him. And from this love comes the want to be more like Him, and better decision making will flow from this.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

This book was heavier than I was expecting. Our protagonist, Lena, was the only survivor of a car crash that killed one of her best friends and a few others from her school. What follows is the story of a girl trying to deal with guilt, pain, and pressure.

I don’t want to be too harsh about this book because it talks about some serious issues (such as underage drinking, death, and grief) but it just didn’t do it for me. I found the first third of the book a bit slow, and I struggled to connect with Lena.

I found her narration quite stilted. The sentences didn’t always flow, and I didn’t particularly like her as a character. She was very self-involved (which is addressed, a little bit, in the end) and I didn’t appreciate the way she treated her friends. I understand her poor behaviour was part of the character development as she processed her grief and guilt from the accident, but I didn’t connect with her from the beginning, before the accident occurred.

I think writing about such emotional topics is difficult, and I applaud the author of how much depth this novel goes into, and for the effort put in.

My rating: 3/5 stars

The Things You Do for Love by Rachel Crowther

Firstly, I loved the writing style of this novel. It immediately drew me in. The narration reads as timeless. It’s classic, with large descriptions of scenery, art, life. The flashbacks to the past, which can be unnecessary and boring, were captivating and eye-opening. I loved the comparison between their young selves and their present selves.

This book focused on a family. Old Flora, recently retired and widowed, and her two grown-up daughters; one pregnant and the other stuck between a career and a relationship. I liked the insight to this family and what life was like when Flora was a young mum, raising her two daughters, but then what her life turns into as an older woman without a husband. Flora was also a surgeon, and I enjoyed catching glimpses of this world.

I admit that this book did get boring in parts; I found myself skimming through the middle. The ‘family secret’ wasn’t very intriguing for me and I didn’t care enough about it to want to read nonstop. Still, good for a library book and a rainy day.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern

I discovered Love, Rosie by watching the movie (I know, I’m that person). The first time I saw it I didn’t really enjoy it; all the male actors looked the same and I was confused the whole time. After watching it a second time, I decided to read the book.

The book is quite different to the movie; the movie focuses on two kindergarten friends, all the way to their twenties. The book goes all the way to their fifties.

I really appreciate how this novel is written: told entirely through emails, letters, and instant messages. When this is done well in a novel I’m hooked, particularly because it can be done really, really badly.

This novel is about the friendship between a guy and girl who – you guessed it – fall in love. Timing isn’t on their side, and they both end up going through numerous disastrous relationships. I thought the portrayal of friendship was realistic; ups and downs, not talking for a few weeks, moving away.

Another detail that I enjoyed is the protagonist, Rosie, dreams of owning a hotel. This is quite a unique dream, and I liked seeing her begin work at the bottom and moving her way up until finally, at middle-age, reaching her goal. Life is difficult when she’s young, which I think is accurate – books where the 20 year old protagonist lands an impressive job with no experience grate on me.

All in all, an enjoyable book about the joys and woes that come with living.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Even in Our Darkness by Jack Deere

After reading the first chapter, I didn’t pick this book up for two months.

When I finally did, I couldn’t put it down.

This doesn’t happen often, but I don’t know what to say. This book is a journey and a half. It’s a roller coaster that never ends. Every time I saw a glimpse of hope and redemption, another weed grew, leaving me amazed at how strong of a Christian Jack Deere is.

This is a memoir, ‘a story of beauty in a broken life’. If I’m being honest, I didn’t see much beauty. I have no doubt of God’s goodness, and God working in his life, but had I been in Jack’s position I don’t know if I would’ve coped.

This book is authentic, and probably the most honest Christian book I’ve ever read. I was definitely surprised at how open he was about some of his past. To let us see into his life, and for his life to have had so much mess, I admire the author. Not only has he shown his faith and wisdom, he’s shown us vulnerability, courage, and a life that we can learn from.

My rating: 5/5 stars

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Remnant of the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ and the book ‘One Day In December’ by Josie Silver, Maybe in Another Life is a story of love, possibility, and the question if we’re meant for just one person. (For someone who doesn’t believe in ‘soulmates’, I sure do read a lot of novels about them.)

The book follows the protagonist, Hannah, on two different journeys: one where she agrees to meet up with her ex-boyfriend, and the other where she declines. The novel flips between the two decisions made, giving the reader insight into the consequences that follow.

Without wanting to give too much away, you should know that having two different story lines means two different endings. I was expecting Hannah to choose the same man in each story line for the sake of soulmates in romance novels, but – spoiler – she chooses a different man in each, and is equally happy with both of them.

I am simultaneously impressed and annoyed by this.

Impressed because the author didn’t follow the typical romance path, wanting to satisfy the reader with an unrealistic speech about fate and destiny and ‘finding each other’. Having the different endings actually made this novel more realistic than most YA out there.

Annoyed because I did not like one of the men Hannah chose and I wish she had ended up with the same guy in each story line. Sorry for wanting a cheesy happily ever after, but is there anything worse than the protagonist ending up with the wrong person? (I know I’m very confusing: I love a good realistic novel but I can’t get past a typical happy ending.)

Anyway. Maybe I’ve just spoiled the entire novel for you – apologies. If it helps, it has a lovely cover and that should make you feel better.

My rating: 4/5 stars

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

This novel had much more substance than what appears at first sight.

Our protagonist, Gia, is broken up with in the parking lot before prom. Her friends – one in particular – don’t believe she had a boyfriend as they were long-distance and he was in college. Because of this, she doesn’t want to walk into prom alone in fear it’ll confirm to her friends he wasn’t real.

So she finds a guy who was just dropping his sister off at prom and asks him to be a fill-in boyfriend, just for a night, and then stage a break-up.

This plot is kind of crazy, but I loved the character development of Gia. She begins as a self-absorbed, shallow, conceited girl who doesn’t talk about anything that really matters. She lies, a lot. And by the end of the novel, she’s still stuck in the mess she created (her friends are angry at her for lying about the fill-in boyfriend, on top of other things) but she’s aware of her mistakes. Things don’t magically turn out perfect at the end, which I really appreciate in a novel. It’s realistic in that our choices have consequences, and we can’t hide from them. Gia has to face who she is and how her faults have affected everyone around her.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Fashioned to Reign by Kris Vallotton

I began reading this book at the end of December. With some Christian books it takes more than a month to read them, depending on the intensity of the subject and the style it’s written.

This book is about setting women free and letting them live out their God-given purpose. Kris Vallotton grapples with Bible passages about women (particularly ones that are often misused) and shows Jesus’ heart for both male and female.

I found it quite fascinating, and there wasn’t anything that I disagreed with, but I admit I didn’t understand everything. I found the content to be very rich; every paragraph had to be thoroughly processed for me to grasp his point. To properly review this, I’d like to read it again because I don’t feel like I’ve fully understood.

But some good thoughts… at the end of every chapter he has a few pages about a significant woman in history (such as Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks). I found this encouraging, motivating, and a nice break from the intensity of the chapter content. He also addresses every topic with respect and care; several times he pointed out he wasn’t trying to stereotype anyone or offend, he was trying to draw out God’s plan.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Okay, that is a lot of books. So if you got to this point, well done for sticking it out. I just pulled some savoury muffins out of the oven, so if you were literally here with me I’d give you one as a congratulations for reading through all those reviews.

Sarah xx

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