Review: The Other Side of Beauty by Leah Darrow

51RJaOGtXnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Darrow is an international religious speaker, and she works to encourage listeners, especially women, to follow a Christian ideal of beauty instead of the version impressed by Western culture.

Leah spoke to my community back in October, and I really enjoyed her humble nature, anecdotal delivery, and overall message. As such, I asked my dad to get me her book for Christmas and I’m happy to say he delivered.

Beauty is a strange concept, and I can tell you that—praise the Lord—I have grown into a type of beauty that I am much more comfortable with than when I was thirteen. The type of beauty I’m concerned with now, however, has very little to do with whether or not I have concealer or a hair straightener and more to do with if I’m doing enough to add goodness to the world. Darrow, it seems, feels the same.

For more on The Other Side of Beauty, published by Nelson Books in November 2017, please continue.

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Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 5.24.01 PMSquinting to see past my steering wheel, I cautiously drove down the icy, winter road toward my parents’ home to pick up my son. Ahead, I could see something in the middle of the street. White, rustling, out of place. It moved enough that I thought perhaps it was an animal. No, not just an animal—a kitten. There was a kitten in the middle of the road. I decided to drive closer to help. (If I’m anything to a kitten it’s Florence Nightingale.)

Yet, as I drove closer, I could see that it wasn’t a kitten at all. It was merely an open napkin, rustling in the wind. My headlights, the wind, and my faulty night vision had me seeing a kitten where there was nothing but a culinary accessory. It didn’t need my help at all. Not that I could tell.

***

Life often hands us scenarios that are all together different in appearance than actual substance.

Such is also the case with Kristin Kirkland, wife of popular ob-gyn Dr. Paul Kirkland of Yellow Springs, Ohio. After a night with neighborhood wives, drinking wine and christening a new fire pit, Kristin disappears without a trace, her two twins with her.

The other women—as well as Paul—are left to wonder where Kristin went, why she left, and how they were completely unaware just hours before she vanished.

For more on Not That I Could Tell, set to be published by St. Martin’s Press in March of 2018, please continue.

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Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 8.36.46 PM“You fool,” she cried again, and heard the girl whimper. What a fool you are, she thought, fuming. What fools we all are. We girls. Afraid of the wrong things, at the wrong times. Afraid of a burned face, when outside, outside waiting for you are fires you cannot imagine. Men, holding matches up to your gasoline eyes. Flames, flames all around you, licking at your just-born breasts, your just-bled body. And infernos. Infernos as wide as the world. Waiting to impoverish you, make you ash, and even the wind, even the wind. Even the wind, my dear, she thought, watching you burn, wiling it, passing over you, and through you. Scattering you, because you are a girl, and because you are ash.

For more on Girls Burn Brighter, set to be published in March of 2018 by Flatiron Books, please continue.

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Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 2.37.32 PMAt a quarter of the way through this book, I’d already decided that the remaining pages could be garbage and the text would still be WORTHY.

First, a book that provides “reviews” of read novels as break up notes or love letters? Sign me up! Written by a librarian—one with infinite access to ALL THE BOOKS?! Yes, I need it and I need it now. Thanks to NetGalley, I had a copy sitting on my Kindle shelf for too long. I should have started this sooner.

Spencer’s preface begins “Reading has shaped me, guided me, reflected me, and helped me understand and connect with, and this is not hyperbole, HUMANITY. If you picked up this book, it’s because somewhere in the past (and more in the future, if I have anything to do with it) a book has changed your life.”

Amen, bibliophile sister.

I was pleased to journey through Spence’s “Read” list with her telling me about her love life (and awful break-ups) with novels. She’s much funnier than I, and I’m certain—were we friends in Real Life—she would have me squirting Cabernet Sauvignon out my nostrils into my hummus dip hoping not to get anything on my library return pile.

For more on Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life, set to be published September 26th by Flatiron Books, continue. 

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Review: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.55.54 PMI often judge a book by how many times I Snapchat friends snippets of prose.

I must have sent 30 snaps from this book to various bibliophile friends, coworkers, and relatives. I laughed. I cried. (Full disclosure: I might have peed a little. Hey, just being honest.)

That said, this book was very good. Geared primarily toward women—ideally Christian women for the loads of Jesus references—the novel covers just how messy and beautiful life can be. Interspersed with relatable lists of “how-to” sections that nearly collapsed me with humor, the novel is primarily informal chapters of pseudo-blog post narratives.

Jen’s life is not perfect, but as she declares for all—imperfect can be beautiful.

For more on Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life, published in 2017, continue. 

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Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 1.27.10 PM“Mom, have you ever been to Russia?” my son once randomly asked as we drove down the road.

Unprepared for such inquiry, I laughed aloud at the absurdity of the question. Stapled into the Midwestern Heartland states, no, I have never been to Russia. I’ve never even been to the infinitely more accessible Europe. Or Canada, for that matter.

“No,” I choked out through my laughter.

My son still asks this question if he’s trying to get my attention or make me laugh. “So Mom, still never been to Russia?” he’ll ask, grinning.

Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is the closest I’ve come to Russia, and I must say it does not disappoint. I was thinking Russian thoughts! Learning Russian phrases! Mentally planning to put bread and salt on my table for guests as a symbol of hospitality! I even had one terrifically awkward Russian dream!

Some may be hesitant to fall into the Russian mindset, but Towles walks readers into the formality, the civility—dare I say it?—the grace of Russia circa 1920-1950s, flawed though it may be. With a harrowing 462 pages, and a 4.4/5 star standing on Goodreads, this is certainly a book all will want to read.

For more on A Gentleman in Moscow, published by Viking Press in 2016, continue. 

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Review: What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 2.22.29 PM
Image from Sacred Source

My babysitter used to religiously watch Oprah’s afternoon talk show. When she still had kids at her house, she would record it so that she could watch the VHS tape later in the evening.

She’d learn recipes, fads, fashions, and everything in between. Celebrities, gossip, health trends. But as it turns out, Oprah also knows about many other aspects of life for which I hadn’t given her due credit.

While many might think that Oprah leads a life of privilege (and they’d certainly be right), she also comes from a background not many know. She’s worked very hard for what she has, and this book offers insight into not only where she’s been but what she now knows for sure.

Born after her parents had a one-time tryst, raised in various locations, suffering abuse and a pregnancy at age 14—among all of the other ravages that life has to offer—Oprah actually knows some very relevant and relatable aspects of life for all audiences, both on TV and world-wide.

For more on Winfrey’s What I Know For Sure, published by Flatiron Books in 2014, please continue. 

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Review: The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 2.44.37 PM“Ceylon, off the coast of India. The 1920s. A tea plantation.”

So begins the description of The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies. Also known as: hook, line, and sinker.

I was not only intrigued by the setting of this book but also the hope of learning more about tea. (It is, after all, my favorite form of caffeination—second only to the latte.) Everything from the time period to the setting and the promise of tea-making made me itch with anticipation for how Jefferies’ plot would begin, manifest, and unfurl.

However, what began as intrigue and hopeful interest quickly turned into a combination of both annoyance and applause for Gwendolyn, the namesake’s “tea planter’s wife.” My conflict was real, and the book itself an amalgam of proper withholding and naïveté.

For more on The Tea Planter’s Wife, published by Broadway Books in 2015, continue… 

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Anticipating: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 8.21.38 PMI am excited to say that a copy of The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is on its way to my home. Thanks to Blogging for Books, I will receive a free copy in exchange for a review, and here I need to express my utmost anticipation. (*Insert little kid squeal: EEEEEE.*)

Emily May, a book reviewer I obsessively follow via Goodreads, praised the book very highly, as have many countless others. (Ok, so actually there are something like 384 reviews at time of posting, but whatever.) It was also available in Book of the Month’s August box, but I opted for Gin Phillips’ Fierce Kingdom. Oops.

Here, I’d like to share Emily’s review to fully convey my excitement. (For more about her, please visit her site: The Book Geek.)

Emily’s Review:

Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.

This book. THIS BOOK. I cannot remember the last time I became so thoroughly immersed in a story, fell so deeply in love with the characters, and had my heart so fully ripped out. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a masterpiece. Most people will know Boyne from his hard-hitting children’s book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but this book is something else entirely.

For more of Emily’s review—and the reason behind my giggly excitement—continue. 

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Review: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 9.23.06 AM“Just sitting there, enduring the dull, antiquated ritual of a transitional high school graduation, hurts—it feels like there are flames beneath me heating up the metal chair I’m seated on, like my stupid square cardboard hat is full of fire ants, like this whole fucking over-privileged town is slowly grinding away my eye balls with sandpaper. But then I realize that I’m free if I want to be—no one has chained me to this folding chair” (p. 258).

If you’ve ever had days where you feel like no one gets you—family, friends, your entire town—you might be Nanette O’Hare. If you’ve ever had days where it physically makes you itch to sit through “regular life” and not be able to escape it, you might be Nanette O’Hare. If you’ve ever faked your way through anything from a day of school to a relationship with someone “you’re expected to be with,” you might be Nanette O’Hare.

I am Nanette O’Hare.

For more on Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing, published by Little, Brown Books in May of 2016, continue. 

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