book reviews

August 2021: Recent Reads

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I know, I know…I’m a week late on this! – Although some of you may not actually know my personal deadline for my recent reads posts 🙂

Truth is, I had to take a sick day from blogging – along with a couple of sick days from work. Technically I could have sat (laid) on the couch and published a post, but I think everyone is glad I didn’t try to string words together last weekend. Not to worry: I’m recovered!

As for my August reading, it was a far smaller amount of books than previous months this year. There’s something about moving and starting a new job that doesn’t leave much energy to find books to read. And also needing to get a new library card – which I now have!

Nevertheless, I do have a few books to share with you from my reading this past month, so here we go!

Nonfiction

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

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I actually started listening to this book several months ago, and it automatically returned to the library on the Libby app. So when I borrowed it again, I was 66% of the way through, which surprised me. I didn’t remember. Oops.

Nevertheless, Brené Brown has so many valuable things to say. And while the content of her books do overlap, I appreciated that, in this book, she specifically addresses leadership positions and how to lead from a place of vulnerability rather than a position of shieldedness. This is one I plan to buy in hard copy to look back over and let it sink in.

My only caveat is that she does sprinkle some four-letter words throughout the book – and even addresses her use of them at some point. She is unapologetic about it, but my opinion is she could use fewer of them and be just as effective in her writing, without turning some people off who would otherwise benefit from what she has to say.

Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang

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Some friends lent me this book to read – I forget exactly why. The repeating thought as I read this was that it reminded me so much of the memoir I read in May called First They Killed My Father, which happened in Cambodia.

The story of Ji Li Jiang and her family and neighbors is heartbreaking and horrifying. However, since it’s told from a child’s perspective, and she didn’t understand all that was happening, the horror is somewhat muted. I was glad I read it so I could learn about this period in China’s history, and I would recommend it to most (high school and up) people. You might just have to read it at a time other than bedtime.

Fiction

Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

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This one pleasantly surprised me! I’d seen people recommending it, but I tend to stay away from contemporary romance/adult realistic fiction since it tends to have open-door sex scenes.

However, when I saw the review for it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit last month, I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did!

Anna Kate is grieving the loss of her grandmother and also trying to run her grandmother’s café. It’s famous for its blackbird pie, which by the way is made of various types of berries, not blackbirds. However, her Granny Zee’s will stipulates that Anna Kate run it for one month before she’s able to sell it.

There’s a bit of whimsy, a touch of magic, and the author’s creative imaginings about the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” mixed in. Add in a bunch of burgeoning love stories amongst the people of this small town and some grief and the process of healing for Anna Kate and another of the characters, and you have a sweet, wholesome story.

When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

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This book was sitting on a shelf in my new library. (New to me, of course, not newly built.) I’m not always good at just browsing and picking good books. I feel like I only hit good ones 50% of the time that way. But this was one of the good ones.

Set in the time of World War II on the homefront in the U.S., and based on a true story, it’s about how a woman came to coach a football team who didn’t have a man to coach it. As you can imagine, in the early 1940s, it wasn’t okay with most people to have a woman coaching a football team. Tylene Wilson was a courageous, strong woman, an excellent educator, and determined to keep her senior boys home for one last year before they enlisted.

This book was heartfelt, inspiring, and enjoyable. I just was surprised that it only covered the events leading up to the first game, not the entire season – or even multiple games. The blurb on the back had me imagining more games than that. Nevertheless, it was good.

Trigger warnings could include PTSD, alcoholism, loss of a child, etc.

DNF’d

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

I wanted to like this book, because so many people rave about Bill Bryson’s writing. I wanted to finish it to count for my Australia book for the Book Voyage Challenge.

However, there were too many unnecessary expletives and crude innuendos for me, so I did not finish it.

Strangely enough, my sister is reading one of his more recent books and she said there’s none of that whatsoever. It’s quite likely his writing has changed in the 18 years between this book and the one she is reading. So I haven’t written off all of his books altogether. But this one, yes.

Carry on, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

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I checked out this audiobook for my 10-hour drive down to Georgia. It kept me company for a good while, but I got bored. First of all, the chapters are mostly self-contained, rather than being one continuous story. Add to that the fact that they all started to sound the same, and I was driving down lots of interstate highway and…I just gave up.

Again, I’ve heard great things about P.G. Wodehouse, so perhaps I should try another of his books another time. But this one didn’t do it for me.


What have you been reading lately?

Tell me in the comments!

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