Aug 31, 2015

August Book Reviews


Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Maria Semple
This is probably the most enjoyable, hilarious, and easy-to-follow novel I have read in awhile. It was so quirky, witty, and sarcastic. I whipped through it within a few days and then practically mourned once I got to the last few days (that's a good sign it's a good book!). I was impressed that it surprised me with the many twists and turns that kept me reading late through the nights. I can usually catch the foreshadowing or hints in novels, but I was blindsided with how this book ended --- and loved that! And the bonus was that it is set in one of my favorite cities, my home away from home for two years: Seattle!

The book is written almost exclusively through emails and letters of the main characters. It follows notoriously witty, opinionated, stubborn, and quirky Bernadette Fox --- specifically the events that led to her sudden disappearance. Get ready for an entertaining ride with this one! 

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
C.S. Lewis (narrated by Derek Jacobi)
In the past six months, I have gone through five of the seven Narnia books exclusively through HarperCollins' audiobooks and I am still as pumped at book 5 as I was back in March when I decided to go through them all in 2015. They are a perfect way to relax after a long day at work since I had a long commute from work. And the British accents of all the narrators in the Narnia books make them feel like Lewis himself is reading his own tales (wouldn't that be something truly awesome?!). 

I have a soft spot for this Narnia tale because I loved the Disney motion picture version and it helped me visualize a lot of the scenes. I especially loved Eustace's change. That's all I'm going to say about that because some people (like my handsome fiancĂ©!) have not read Voyage of the Dawn Treader and I don't want to spoil what I think is the best part of the book (and movie . . . I cried like a baby!). 

Prince Caspian and his mighty men are sailing aboard the Dawn Treader to find the seven lost noble lords who were banished under Caspian's evil uncle Miraz's ruling. Adventure awaits them all as  Lucy, Edmond, and their rude and selfish cousin Eustace enter the world of Narnia. 

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Longbourn
Jo Baker
The tagline boasts that "Pride and Prejudice was only half the story". In a Downtown Abbey sort of way, Baker imagines what the servants' lives were like. Their passions, their regrets, their frustrations. Longbourn follows the Pride and Prejudice storyline but from the servant's perspective. The familiar storyline is nostalgic as Jane meets Bingley, Elizabeth denies Mr. Collins' proposal, and foolish Lydia runs off with conniving Whickham. But it is told through the lens of Sarah (an orphaned housemaid), Mrs. Hill (head housekeeper), and James (the new footman). Their own drama takes center stage with the Bennetts' in the background.

I wanted to like Longbourn. I really did. It's based on Pride and Prejudice, for crying out loud . . . I LOVE Pride and Prejudice. I had high hopes and read glowing reviews online, but alas, I was sorely disappointed. The only thing I enjoyed was that the story followed the original P & P, and I finished it only because I have an OCD thing about not finishing books, but believe me, I came thisclose.  There was far too much crude language and content for my liking --- especially since Austen's characters are marked with a sense of grace and propriety. I know, I know, this is certainly not Austen and it's the servant's perspective, so it's not as prim and proper in their corner of Longbourn estate, but come on! I won't elaborate, but I was not impressed. I guess I am a bit protective of Jane Austen's Bennett family because I was annoyed and frustrated at Baker's version of this beloved family, most notably of Mr. Bennett. I won't spoil anything, but his character was trampled in this book. Furthermore, there was odd, sudden transitions between characters as well as first and third person transitions that made some of the book hard to follow. One of the main characters, Sarah, annoyed me throughout the book. Longbourn is a far departure from Austen's unforgettable tale, which I suppose  is fine because this is not written by Austen, but when a book ties in a classic like Pride and Prejudice, you better bet your bottom dollar that some people are either going to love or hate the characters or plot line.  I was one of the latter. I am typically not one to write a scathing review of a book, but here we are. 

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7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
Jen Hatmaker
I heard great things about Jen Hatmaker's books, so I was eager to start this one. I was interested in what she'd write about since I have been going through a season of simplifying and cleaning up as I moved out of my apartment at the end of July. I was pumped to read about Jen's seven months of intentionally minimizing distractions and excess to better love God and those around her. It ended up being different than what I expected, but I still really enjoyed the book overall.

Each chapter is dedicated to seven different areas that Jen, her family, and several friends who became "The Council" took a month to purposefully evaluate. Food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. We need them all in some degree, but if we're not careful, each can easily usurp our control and become obsessions, time-consumers, and dangerous impediments in fellowship with God and with people. Jen spends the first month eating only seven foods cooked in a variety of ways as she researched about those who didn't have basic foods on their table. She eliminated seven types of media and found more time to enjoy the simple things of life. She gave away seven things a day as she pondered how possessions were "possessing" her. And in the last chapter, she took seven sacred pauses throughout the day to release stress of busyness. 

Hatmaker's style in 7 is journaling as she shares funny conversations as well as honestly writing about days she fails miserably. Although some of her humor is not my cup o' tea, it didn't detract from the overall theme of the book, nor the though-provoking research she presents as well as her own heart-stirring thoughts about what God has taught her through each month. Interwoven in the book is also snippets of her adoption story as she deals with paperwork and waiting patiently for two children who had her heart before she even knew their names. It made me think about the ways I waste precious time, energy, money, and rest on things that can be decreased or eliminated. I will definitely come back to this book from time to time to revisit a lot of what stirred my heart and mind. 


Currently Reading:

Lunch in Paris  by Elizabeth Bard
You & Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan

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Elle Alice