As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

I was blessed to grow up in a family of readers, and I hope to be reading as long as my 106-year old great-grandma. Books are my great escape, and I can't imagine going a day without one. Happily, my husband tolerates my addiction - I'm a lucky girl!

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir - Ruth Wariner

I haven't read a book in a long time that grabbed me so immediately from the beginning and kept me reading feverishly to the end. The mom in me was horrified at the depictions of life without electricity, adequate food, or appropriate adult supervision. The kid in me recognized the moments of magic, even in this seemingly dismal childhood. This is a memoir for readers who think they don't like memoirs - The Sound of Gravel will keep you up at night, bring tears to your eyes, and once again make you believe in happy endings. Highest recommendations.

 

(Source - ARC from publisher - thank you Flatiron Books!)

Getting Rough by C.L. Parker

Getting Rough: Monkey Business Trio - C. L. Parker

I started this book with a bit of trepidation - I had enjoyed the first in the series, but was somewhat burned out by the animosity between Cassidy and Shaw. I didn't know if I was up for another 300+ pages of them hating each other then jumping into bed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author had chosen to allow her characters to feel real feelings, and even confess those feelings to each other.

 

This book felt much more grown-up, more mature, and made for a more enjoyable read. I found the character development to be athentic, and the backstories for Cassidy and Shaw made them much more sympathetic. After reading this installment, I'm very excited for #3 to see how Cassidy and Shaw's story ends. Fun and sexy read!

 

(I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Incognegro by Mat Johnson

Incognegro - Mat Johnson, Warren Pleece

I have to admit that I wasn't sure this would be a hit for me - the murder mystery is not always my cup of tea. But reading the author's introduction, detailing his life as a "black boy who could pass for white", and learning how much that influenced the writing of this novel, I was intrigued. And then the novel itself was just really really good.

 

I thought the historical information was well-integrated into a page-turning thriller, and the twists were genuinely surprising. I was significantly more drawn in than I ever expected to be, and I enjoyed the reading of this graphic novel greatly.

March (book one) by John Robert Lewis

March (Book One) - Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, John Robert Lewis

This was just so well done. I think it's hard to truly explain to young people the importance of what ordinary people have done in the name of freedom and justice. If there were more books like this, that would become easier. This story is so simply told, yet so powerful in it's impact. I'm not sure I've read anything before that allowed me in to the events of the civil rights movement with such immediacy. Because the illustrations were right there, in actual black and white, this story became more than just a story - it became a life, of someone who was just a regular kid who dreamed of something better. Highest recommendation.

A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Live, To Return by Zeina Abirached

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return (Single Titles) - Zeina Abirached

In ways that traditional books cannot, graphic novels seem to have the ability to express difficult things so that they cannot be dismissed. This book brings to life the realities of war from the eyes of a child, so in many ways it is simple and straightforward. It's just one day, just one room, and yet the fear and anxiety are clear. I have seen comparisons to other award-winning graphic novels, and while I think those comparisons are fair, Abirached still has her own story to tell. I found this to be powerful and moving. Recommended.

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu

Exquisite Corpse - Pénélope Bagieu

Hah! I thought we were pattering along in a story I had basically figured out in my head, and then we took a turn and OH MY!!! It got so WEIRD!! And strangely funny, and a little bit cute, and I kinda loved it. Give this one a shot - I bet it will surprise you.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 3 - Crushed

Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed - G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona

Gosh, I just love this series. I love what it is as a story, and I love what it stands for in the future of comics. It's so much fun watching Kamala come into her own, as a superhero and as a girl. I do think this issue seemed short - the three stories were completely disconnected, so felt less like a story arc and more an ad for the Agents of Shield. That said, I still devoured it. I love what Wilson is saying with the character of Kamala, and I love the messages she has for girls. (Yep, I agree they are on-the-nose - but let's remember, her target audience is teens, who haven't had years of experience teasing out subtext.) Her clear and well-placed commentary on consent in this story was fantastic. I can't wait to read the next issue - I can't wait for my kids to read this one - definitely recommended.

The Road To Becoming by Jenny Simmons

The Road to Becoming: Rediscovering Your Life in the Not-How-I-Planned-It Moments - Jenny Simmons

Do you remember what it's like when a book really surprises you? When you agree to read it because someone asks you to, but honestly, you just read Jen Hatmaker, so how good can this book possibly be?

 

And then. Well, let's just say you nearly forgot Jen Hatmaker. Because this one was SO good.

 

In both content and technique, this is one of the superior books I have read in 2015. Jenny Simmons brings truth and beauty to a subject we have all experienced - the death of a dream, and the fear of what happens next. So many times in the course of reading, though our experiences are nothing alike, I could relate so completely with the words on the page. Jenny Simmons is honest and funny and lyrical and breathtakingly real as she tells her story, which feels in the strangest way like mine.

 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. One of the best parts about being a reader, for me, is finding that hidden gem - the title you didn't know, the book you didn't expect, the author you can't wait to follow for their entire career. This is one of those moments of thrilling discovery for me, and I would be surprised if this wasn't one of my favorite books of the year.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby - Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby was fast-paced and generally a good choice for a quick summer read. Many of the plot twists were fairly predictable, but there were definitely some surprises. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters - perhaps more development would have enhanced my enjoyment. The ending felt rushed, with several characters' resolutions straining credibility. Not bad, but I think there are many others in the genre that would ultimately be more satisfying.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards - Jen Hatmaker

Sometimes books make me laugh. Sometimes books make me cry. Sometimes books change the way I look at the world. For the Love is that rare kind of book that did all three. It is one of the rare books that I know I will read and re-read, over and over again. It is full of love, and grace, and excellent fashion advice. It's a book about God for people who are tired of books about God. It is warm, and wise, and funny, and goofy, and true. It is so very true. If you are a Christian who longs for a better way, read this book and see how it can be. If you used to be a Christian, but can't stand the church anymore, read this book and believe that some of us want to be better. This is good stuff, friends. Highest of recommendations.

Fables, Vol. 1 - Legends in Exile

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile - James Jean, Craig Hamilton, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Bill Willingham

Holy crapballs, did I love this. I've been hearing how great the series is for a L O N G time from my trusted reader-friends, so I have no idea why I haven't picked up it before now. Guess what, folks? They were right. It's freaking amazing. I love the use of well-known characters in surprising new ways. I love the backstories that were just hinted at, but clearly contain legions. I guessed the mystery pretty early on, but watching the characters stumble through figuring it out was still fun. I am excited by this series on every level, and can't wait to read more. Definitely recommended!

Lumberjanes, Volume 1

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 -  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen

I thought this was a lot of fun. It took some time to get into the story and characters, and I felt like it was a good thing I read the first couple of issues as one volume, or I don't know that I would have kept going. But once we got to the first mention of the Kitten Holy, I was hooked. I still have a bit of trouble keeping the names straight, and I'm hoping for more backstory, but I will definitely keep reading.

Playing Dirty by C.L. Parker

Playing Dirty: Monkey Business Trio - C. L. Parker

Super quick and fun - major issue being the chemistry between the two main characters. They clearly felt attracted to each other, but I never got the sense that they LIKED each other, AT ALL. And honestly, at some point I need to sense some sort of softening toward each other, or else the relationship just doesn't work for me. Would definitely read more by this author.

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Adult Onset - Ann-Marie MacDonald

I had the same problem with this book that I did with MacDonald's other two novels - I expected them to be better than they were. This was certainly well written, and I enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout. I found much of the story relatable - as a mom, a daughter, a partner. I understood much of the darkness in the book, and thought it was quite realistic. The relationships, with their good and hard moments, felt authentic and true. I just wanted more from the story, and it ultimately didn't deliver. It was fine, but probably won't be one of the books I remember from 2015.

The Wicked and the Divine: The Faust Act

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie

Another graphic novel, another one I've heard raves about, with good reason. Every 90 years, twelve gods become incarnate as humans. Some people love them, some people hate them, within 2 years they are all dead. This is the story of what happens when they come back. It's a freaking fascinating idea, and the story is strong. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and the characters are complex and interesting. I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what graphic novels have to offer, but if they are consistently this good I think I've found a new genre. This series is definitely more adult, so reader beware, but I'm hooked.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal - Jacob Wyatt, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona

So I guess I read graphic novels now? I've been hearing a few friends rave about this one, so I thought I'd pick it up, and it was pretty fantastic. Kamala Khan is a 15-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim just wishing she could be blonde and fit in. Then suddenly she becomes Ms. Marvel. What transpires is pretty awesome, because it's pretty real. She doesn't just automatically know what to do. Becoming a super hero doesn't solve all her problems. She's still 15, with overbearing parents and an annoying brother, but now she also has to figure out how to keep herself from shifting into her alter ego all the time. Really well written, very nice illustrations - I'm definitely going to keep reading this series.

Currently reading

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
Sarah Bessey
A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Jonathan Morris, Karen Armstrong